Yesterday, the Islanders announced their promotions for the second half of the season. They will not only be honoring former players like the first half of the season as Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, and Matt Martin all have bobblehead nights scheduled. Among the promotions announced was the return of former Islanders forward Pat LaFontaine to the Coliseum. LaFontaine played 8 seasons for the Islanders from 83/84-90/91. While with the Islanders, LaFontaine participated in 530 regular season games and averaged better than a point a game in that time period putting up 566 points. He also participated in 50 playoff games with the Islanders and manged to register 35 points in those games.
A Long Time Away
LaFontaine made a brief return to the Islanders in 2006. At that time he was brought in to serve as a senior adviser to owner Charles Wang. However, just six weeks later he resigned in protest due to the Islanders firing Neil Smith and hiring Garth Snow as GM. Snow was the teams backup goalie at the time. His resignation really left a sour taste in the mouth of owner Charles Wang as since then Wang has attempted to erase LaFontaines place in team history. LaFontaines “Easter Epic” winning goal has been omitted from most highlight packages shown at the Coliseum. Additionally, you would see nothing pertaining to LaFontaine anywhere in the Coliseum. In an article for the Wall Street Journal 2 years ago, it was reported that LaFontaine attempted to call Wang twice, at Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2006 attempting to reconcile. However, Wang never returned his calls. With it being the final season at the Coliseum, it will be nice for LaFontaine to finally return to the place he started his Hall of Fame career.
After resigning from his position LaFontaine hasn’t stepped foot in the Coliseum and as said above Charles Wang has attempted to erase any mention of LaFontaine from Islanders history. While things between LaFontaine and the owner were pretty tense, one thing that never changed was how much fans admired him. Very often you would go to online message boards or facebook groups and find LaFontaine as a topic of conversation among fans. Some fans would go as far as saying that they felt his number should be retired. A couple of years ago, it had been reported that LaFontaine would potentially be involved in an ownership group should the Islanders be sold. This made a lot of fans excited because they thought this would be the only way LaFontaine would step back in the Coliseum because most thought there was no way it would happen with Wang still in charge. With it happening now, it will be a special night for LaFontaine and fans alike.
More Players Returning
On top of welcoming back LaFontaine, the Islanders will also be holding mini locker events for Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy. Trottier who is now an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres, will be welcomed back on January 16th versus the Penguins. Meanwhile, Mike Bossy will be welcomed back on January 29th against the Bruins. Additionally, according to Newsday, a night is in the works where multiple former Islanders will return including John Tonelli.
Not confirmed yet, but in the works: Night to welcome back multiple past #Isles, including John Tonelli.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 16, 2014
I was shocked to say the least when I heard that LaFontaine would be returning this season. I had hoped he would, but I had the same feeling as most people, that it wasn’t possible to happen with Charles Wang still in charge of the team. With it being scheduled, it appears as though the owner decided to swallow some pride and do the right thing for the fans and put himself aside. With the additional players coming back, I am selfishly hoping Ziggy Palffy is able to return this year. I was a huge fan of Palffy like most were at the time as he was Isles hockey, so it would special to see him on the ice one last time. While the Islanders have hard times with certain things when it comes to the fans, it is good to see that they are doing a good job with this, this season.