Sunday, January 22, 2017

1997-98 New York Rangers Pat LaFontaine Jersey

Drafted by third overall by the New York Islanders, Pat LaFontaine delayed his entry into the NHL by first playing for the United States National Team in preparation for the 1984 Olympics.

Lafontaine USA 1984, Lafontaine USA 1984

At the conclusion of the Olympics, LaFontaine then joined the Islanders for the remainder of the 1983-84 season, scoring 13 goals in 15 games. He would play seven seasons on Long Island, unfortunately arriving at the conclusion of the Islanders dynasty which occurred with the loss in the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals to the Edmonton Oilers. It would be the last time LaFontaine would play in the finals, as his teams would never advance past the second round of the playoffs for the remainder of his career.

He proved to be a prolific goal scorer with the Islanders, scoring 38 goals in this third full season and then posting four consecutive seasons of 40 goals or more, highlighted by his career high of 54 in 1989-90 and his 105 points that year was his best as an Islander.

Lafontaine Islanders, Lafontaine Islanders

The highlight of LaFontaine's time with the Islanders was scoring the series winning goal in the fourth overtime of Game 7 between the Islanders and the Washington Capitals during the 1987 playoffs. "It was the most memorable moment in my hockey life. Even today, wherever I go, people come up to me and start telling me where they were during the Easter Epic," LaFontaine said.

LaFontaine would suffer a concussion during the playoffs in 1990, the first of several that would affect his career.

With the situation in New York looking dismal for the foreseeable future, LaFontaine turned down a contract offer from the Islanders and sat out the first three weeks of the season before being traded to the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres were a good fit for LaFontaine and he immediately scored 93 points in 57 games that season, although he was limited by a broken jaw which led to some interesting headgear upon his return.

He followed up his first season in Buffalo with the best offensive season of his career in 1992-93, after being named team captain, with 53 goals and 95 assists, helping set up many of Alexander Mogilny's 76 goals in the process, for a career best 148 points and second place in the NHL scoring race.

Laftontaine Mogilny 92-93, Laftontaine Mogilny 92-93
LaFontaine and Mogilny were rewarded with spots in the
1993 NHL All-Star Game

The next two seasons were a struggle for LaFontaine, as he only managed to play in 38 total games due to knee surgery for a torn ligament. Still, he was awarded the Masterton Trophy in 1995.

Proving he still could compete, he had his seventh 40 goal season in 1995-96, finishing with 91 points. Early in the next season, he would suffer another concussion, costing him several months of playing time which would limit him to just 13 games. Sabres management and team doctors refused to clear him to play, but LaFontaine demanded a trade, believing he could still play.

The Sabres subsequently traded him to the New York Rangers for the final season of his career. He managed to play in 67 games, which included reaching the 1,000 point milestone on this date in 1998, as well as representing the United States a month later at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Lafontaine USA 1998, Lafontaine USA 1998
LaFontaine at the 1998 Olympics

After suffering another serious concussion in a collision with a teammate in mid March, LaFontaine would miss the remainder of the year and retire at the end of the season, having totaled 468 goals, 545 assists and 1013 points in his abbreviated 15 year career.

In addition to the 1984 and 1998 Olympics which bookended his international career, LaFontaine would also compete for the United States in the 1987 Canada Cup, the 1989 World Championships, the 1991 Canada Cup and the gold medal winning 1996 World Cup of Hockey team, where LaFontaine had four points in five games.

Lafontaine USA 1996, Lafontaine USA 1996
LaFontaine hoists the 1996 World Cup

In 2003 he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as well as the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2006, the Buffalo Sabres would retire LaFontaine's #16 on March 3rd.

An interesting note of trivia, LaFontaine is one of only three players to play for all three teams from the state of New York, and the only one to have played his entire career in New York state. LaFontaine once joked, "I got to play for three great organizations in my career and never once had to buy new license plates."

Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 New York Rangers Pat LaFontaine jersey. This highly attractive jersey was worn during the season LaFontaine scored his 1,000th career point.

The beautiful "Liberty" jersey was first introduced in 1996 and featured a bold new crest featuring the Statue of Liberty and a very classy darker shade of blue than the traditional road jerseys. This style is perhaps the finest third jersey in NHL history and would remain in use through the 2006-07 season until being discontinued when all clubs were limited to just two jerseys with the arrival of the new Reebok Edge jerseys.

During LaFontaine's career, there was inconsistency in the way his name was displayed on the back of his jerseys. The Islanders had it as both "LAFONTAINE" in all capital letters of the same size and also "LAFONTAINE" with the "A" capitalized, but in a smaller size. The Sabres seem to have used all capitals the same size while the Rangers used the small "A" style. His 1987 USA Canada Cup and jerseys used the smaller "A", while we have seen his 1996 USA World Cup jerseys both ways!

If you are going to add a LaFontaine jersey to your collection, we strongly recommend searching for photos and videos of the style of jersey you wish to replicate and supply your findings to your customizers in order to get the most accurate jersey possible.

We begin today's video selections with the Top 10 goals by Pat LaFontaine.

Next, a tribute to LaFontaine on the occasion of his jersey retirement by the Sabres.

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