A series of concussions that left him with migraine headaches, fatigue and depression drove Pat LaFontaine from the NHL five years ago. Monday night, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with former Edmonton Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr, who became its first black member.
"To have this as the final stop in your hockey career is as good as it gets," said LaFontaine, a five-time All-Star who posted six straight 40-goal seasons _ four with the Islanders and two with the Buffalo Sabres.
Detroit Red Wings owner Michael Ilitch and Canadian junior hockey coach Brian Kilrea also were inducted.
LaFontaine, a center, has a common thread with the other new members of the Hall. He left home in St. Louis to play midget hockey in Detroit in 1982, when Ilitch bought the Red Wings, and he was with the Islanders when Kilrea was an assistant to coach Al Arbour. LaFontaine later played with Fuhr from 1993-95 with the Sabres.
"Some people think because an injury ended my career that I might be resentful toward the game, but it's actually helped me become what I am today," LaFontaine said. He spoke of the book he wrote, Companions in Courage, a collection of stories about young people who overcame setbacks that, he noted, "later evolved into a foundation."
Fuhr, a member of five Stanley Cup-winning teams, including the 1983-84 Oilers club that ended the Islanders' string of four straight championships, played down his being the first black player in the Hall, saying "all the doors had been opened" by the time he began his professional career.
When Ilitch bought the Red Wings for $8-million, the club was struggling with just 2,100 season-ticket holders. Under Ilitch, who also owns baseball's Detroit Tigers, the Red Wings went on to win three Stanley Cups as Detroit became known as Hockeytown.
Kilrea played briefly in the NHL, scoring the first goal in Los Angeles Kings history.
PENGUINS: Mario Lemieux's hip injury doesn't appear to be as serious as the one that sidelined him for much of the 2001-02 season, though the Pittsburgh star probably won't play tonight in Toronto. He was at practice Monday but didn't take the ice and wasn't talking about the strained muscle in his left hip that has bothered him for about 10 days.