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Rift Between Islanders and LaFontaine Unfortunate | April

Pat LaFontaine may be one of the greatest players to don an Islander uniform from 1983 to 1991, but a rift between team owner Charles Wang and LaFontaine has caused the Isles to erase him from their history.

The issue was brought to light yesterday when the Wall Street Journal published an article by Mike Sielski called “Cutting a Star Out of the Picture” (a must read).

The tale is quite simple really: After spending 40 days as an unpaid senior advisor to Charles Wang, back in 2006, LaFontaine resigned hours after Wang had fired then general Manager Neil Smith. He told the WSJ that resigned because he didn’t like the direction the franchise was going. "I believe you treat people fairly," he said in the article. "And stand up for what you believe in."

Since then there has been a rift between the two sides.

In 2008, then Anaheim Ducks General Manager, Brian Burke wanted a credential for LaFontaine so he could sit with him when the Ducks played the Islanders. The team denied Burke’s request multiple times, to his bewilderment, so he provided a ticket for LaFontaine to sit in the Ducks owner’s suite. The Isles told the New York Times Slap Shot blog that he would have been welcomed to sit in a suite reserved for team alumni.

That was the last time he has stepped foot in the Nassau Coliseum.

Over the years the team has neglected to mention his presence in charity events, such as the bike ride from Toronto to New York that Steve Webb and LaFontaine both took part in. The WSJ article notes that the team issued a news release on their website mentioning Webb, but not LaFontaine.

The omission became even more blaring when the Islanders did not induct him into the teams hall of fame, even though he has 566 points and 287 goals as an Islanders, during the 40th anniversary ceremonies. They also left out his “Easter Epic” goal against the Washington Capitals in their opening video:

This, of course has drawn the ire of fans and media alike prompting a very passionate post from Justin Bourne, editor of the Backhand Shelf and son of Islander great Bob Bourne.

And it’s hard to fault anyone for criticizing the Islanders for, intentionally or unintentionally, omitting one of the greatest players to play for this organization. LaFontaine is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and has his number retired 16 retired in Buffalo. It’s hard to fathom why he has not at the very least been inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame.

Not to mention how much of a staple he is on Long Island. Between his well documented charity work to coaching the Long Island Royals to having one of the coolest back yards on the Island. Yet “Long Island sole professional sports franchise” seemingly forgets about him.

And LaFontaine would be great in a hockey operations position with Isles as well.

One can hope that the fractured relationship between the two sides can be fixed and LaFontaine can be welcomed back into the Islanders family.  That’s the very least they can do for a man who’s given them so many fond memories.