Monday, January 9, 2012

1982-83 Verdun Juniors Pat LaFontaine Jersey

John LaFontaine was a Canadian from Tecumseh, Ontario who worked for Chrysler, who transferred him to St. Louis, Missouri where his son Pat LaFontaine was born in 1965.

It was in St. Louis where LaFontaine first learned to skate. His father was transferred once again, this time to Waterford, Michigan, just 33 miles from Detroit when Pat was seven. He was able to get in plenty of ice time as the LaFontaine's lived on Williams Lake. He also played on his older brother's team, with kids that were a year or two older than he was, which pushed him to improve his game to keep up with the older boys.

With the end goal of American kids being to play college hockey in those days, the thought of turing pro hadn't even occurred to Pat until he was fifteen, following the success of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" United States Olympic team's gold medal performance, as well as that of American Bobby Carpenter of Massachusetts, who turned pro with the Washington Capitals in 1981.

LaFontaine was clearly no ordinary talent, as while Carpenter was just turning pro in 1981-82, LaFontaine scored an Earth-shattering 175 goals and 149 assists for a stunning 324 points in a 79 game season with Detroit Compuware of the midget AAA Michigan National Hockey League. Yes, three hundred and twenty-four points, an average of over four points per game!

No doubt influenced by his father's Canadian roots, the decision was made that the best place for Pat to continue to progress was Canadian junior hockey rather than an American college. With that, LaFontaine left home at age 17 and moved to the Montreal suburb of Verdun to play for the Verdun Juniors of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the 1982-83 season.

"Our coach, Pierre Cramer, put me together with Jean-Maurice Cool and we traded for Gerard Gallant. We gelled together," LaFontaine recalled.

Lafontaine Verdun

LaFontaine began the season with a goal and two assists at Chicoutimi. He duplicated that in his second game at home to Saint Jean. His first hat trick came four games later to extend his point scoring streak to six. Eight games later LaFontaine had his second hat trick as well as four assists for a seven point night.

November 1st saw the streak reach 20 games at Laval with a pair of assists. Four games later Hull was victimized by LaFontaine's fourth hat trick and second seven point game.

He reached the 30 game mark November 26th with a goal and three assists against Drummondville. He surpassed 100 points on December 3rd in his 32nd game of the season and Game 35 of the consecutive point streak on December 10th was an impressive showing, as LaFontaine raised his season high with an eight point night courtesy of a two goal, six assist performance.

Game 40 was achieved December 21st with a goal. After a two week break for the World Junior Tournament, Verdun returned to the ice on January 5th and LaFontaine picked up where he left off with back to back hat tricks (numbers 6 and 7 of the season) on the 5th and the 7th. The point scoring streak now reached 43 games, as well as a total of 142 points, on this date in 1983 when LaFontaine had a pair of goals and an assist versus Chicoutimi.

Lafontaine Verdun

For the first time all season, LaFontaine was held scoreless at Shawinigan on January 12th, but began another scoring streak of 26 games that would carry through to the end of the season.

He set a season high with four goals on the 18th, only to raise that to five on the 28th of January. LaFontaine reached the 200 point barrier on the 23rd and equalled a season high with eight points on February 25th, which included his 11 hat trick. LaFontaine finished the regular season strongly with a hat trick and three assists for six points on March 11th and then repeated those totals the very next game on March 13th.

He then put an exclamation point on his amazing season when he pumped in five goals as well as three assists for his third eight point night of the season to score 20 points in his final three games, giving LaFontaine points in 69 of the Juniors 70 games that season as well as 15 hat tricks.

In addition to his three eight point games, he had three seven point games, four with six and five games of five points apiece. His final totals were 104 goals and 130 assists for 234 points to lead the league in scoring and earn the Jean Beliveau Trophy with the second highest total in league history at the time. He had 15 more assists than his next closest competitor, Claude Verret, whom he beat by 46 points in the scoring race. LaFontaine also won the goal scoring crown by a full 20 goals over future NHL superstar Mario Lemeiux, who came third in the points race a full 50 points back of LaFontaine.

LaFontaine's remarkable season sees him still third on the single season goal scoring list as well as third on the single season point scoring record more than 25 years later.

Once the playoffs began, LaFontaine kicked off the postseason with four assists as Verdun swept Trois-Rivieres on the strength of LaFontaine's ten points. Shawingan fell in six after shutting out LaFontaine in Game 1 although he came back to score 12 points in the final five games. Verdun then won the President's Cup and qualified for the Memorial Cup by defeating Longueuil four games to one thanks to 13 points from LaFontaine, which earned him the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy as QMJHL playoff MVP after leading the playoffs in scoring with 35 points in 15 games, which added the Guy Lafleur Trophy to his ever growing hardware collection.

Additionally, LaFontaine collected the Mike Bossy Trophy as Best Pro Prospect of the Year, the Michel Bergeron Trophy as Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy as Most Sportsmanlike Player thanks to his total of just 10 penalty minutes for the entire regular season.

One more award came LaFontaine's way, as he was named the Canadian Hockey League's Player of the Year for 1983.

Despite being named the Best Pro Prospect in the QMJHL, LaFontaine was drafted third overall that season behind the Minnesota North Stars first overall selection of Brian Lawton and the Hartford Whalers choice of Sylvain Turgeon second before the New York Islanders grabbed LaFontaine.

LaFontaine would only play for Verdun for a single season, one in which he dominated and proved he was ready to move up to play against a higher level of competition, which he did by spending a season with the United States National Team in preparation for the 1984 Olympic Games.

Lafontaine USA 1984

Once the Olympics were concluded, LaFontaine then joined the Islanders for the final 15 games of the 1983-84 season, which included scoring a hat trick and two assists in only his second game. He also gained valuable experience in 16 playoff games as the Islanders made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to see their dynasty end as the Edmonton Oilers began theirs.

He would go on to prove the North Stars and Whalers wrong by having an NHL career which would eventually see LaFontaine inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

Today's featured jersey is a 1982-83 Verdun Juniors Pat LaFontaine jersey. The Verdun Juniors franchise can be traced back to 1933 when they began life as the Montreal Junior Canadiens, a name they retained until 1972. Name changes then ensued, going from the Montreal Bleu Blanc Rouge to the Montreal Juniors, the Verdun Juniors, and the Verdun Junior Canadiens, all of which explains why their jerseys copied the Montreal Canadiens template so directly.

Eventually the club relocated 35 miles east to Saint-Hyacinthe where they became knows as the Saint-Hyacinthe Laser in 1989 where the Canadiens look was continued. They remained there until 1996 when they moved once more, this time 421 miles northwest to Rouyn-Noranda where they became known as the Huskies and continue to play there to this day but finally broke their ties to the Canadiens jersey template.

Verdun Juniors 83-84 jersey

While today's post focused on LaFontaine's junior hockey dominance, video of that era was impossible to find, so we present to you Pat LaFontaine's top ten goals.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome and encourage genuine comments and corrections from our readers. Please no spam. It will not be approved and never seen.


hit counter for blogger