Sabres to retire LaFontaine, Gare numbers
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Eight years after their bitter feud, Pat LaFontaine and the Buffalo Sabres officially put their differences aside.
The team announced Monday it is retiring LaFontaine's No. 16 jersey, as well as former right wing Danny Gare's No. 18, and the two will be honored in separate ceremonies later this season.
"It's really the beginning," Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn said. "I think this was the right thing to do, and it was real important. We have to respect our tradition a little bit better than what we have."
LaFontaine will have his number retired before the Sabres' game against Toronto on March 3. Gare's ceremony will be before the Nov. 22 game against the New York Rangers.
LaFontaine unceremoniously traded to the New York Rangers before the 1997-98, after the Sabres refused to clear him to play when he sustained his fifth concussion early the previous season.
The decision, made partly because the Sabres couldn't afford his salary, sent shock waves through the Buffalo hockey community and left LaFontaine with lingering bitterness toward the organization.
"Any time that you love a place, it's hard to leave," LaFontaine said. "But decisions have to be made. That's part of the game."
LaFontaine sustained another head injury with the Rangers and retired in 1998 at the age of 33. He totaled 468 goals and 1,013 points in his 15-year career.
LaFontaine, who entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003, played six seasons in Buffalo after being acquired in October 1991 from the New York Islanders in a blockbuster trade that also involved the Sabres' former No. 1 overall pick, Pierre Turgeon. LaFontaine registered 158 goals and 385 points in 268 games with the Sabres.
In 1992-93, LaFontaine and forward Alexander Mogilny teamed to produce the best offensive season in the Sabres' 36-year history. LaFontaine set single-season highs with 95 assists and 148 points, with Mogilny the beneficiary of most of those helpers, scoring a team-record 76 goals.
"That was the year where the chemistry was just hard to explain," LaFontaine said. "Things just clicked. When I got the puck, I just looked for Alex streaking up. That was a great time."
LaFontaine and Gare are the fifth and sixth players to have their numbers removed by the team. The others are Gilbert Perreault (No. 11), Rick Martin (7), Rene Robert (14) and the late Tim Horton (2).
Gare was Buffalo's second-round draft pick in 1974, and reached the 50-goal plateau twice in his 13-year career, including a then team-record 56 in 1979-80. In 503 games with the Sabres, Gare had 267 goals and 500 points. The right wing, who captained the Sabres from 1977-81, also had 686 penalty minutes.
Gare was traded to Detroit in December 1981 in a deal that brought forward Mike Foligno to Buffalo. Foligno became one of the most popular players in Sabres history, and was the captain of the team for two seasons.
Gare finished his career in Edmonton, and scored 354 goals in 827 NHL games.
"I enjoyed all of those years," Gare said. "To have my number retired is a great privilege."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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