One of the highlights of writing a blog like this are the rare opportunities you get to talk to great people. Pat LaFontaine is one of those great people. He is a hockey player that I grew up idolizing but more importantly, he is a great father and a role model for all of us. He is an icon in Buffalo for his play on the ice and his charity and giving off the ice.
LaFontaine continues his charity work still and he and Olympic Speed Skater Dan Jansen will team with ING Financial Services and the ING Run For Something Better. ING is hoping to raise awareness of child obesity by funding school based fitness programs throughout the country.
On Sunday, November 1, 2009, Jansen and LaFontaine will partner with financial services leader ING as they participate in the 40th running of this premiere distance race. The two will be serving as ambassadors for the ING Run For Something Better, a national initiative that promotes youth fitness and provides grants and funding to school-based running programs across the country.
During the marathon, Jansen and LaFontaine will each wear a pair of ING's signature orange shoelaces. Orange laces are given to those who make a charitable donation of $10 or more to the ING Run For Something Better cause. ING's orange laces are available at www.orangelaces.com. The two champions will also raise money for the program through fundraising websites. Fans can support their efforts by visiting www.orangelaces.com/nyc.
I would like to thank Pat LaFontaine, ING and Jim Schmiedeberg of Blueshirt Banter for this opportunity. Jim presented me with this opportunity after he was contacted and it was a thrill to talk to one of the all-time greatest hockey players to play in Buffalo.
Follow the jump to read the interview.
Die by the Blade: Pat; you are getting ready to run the ING New York City Marathon in conjunction with the ING Run For Something Better. How did you become involved with the cause and what attracted you to it?
Pat LaFontaine: I was actually approached two years ago when Mike Richter did it and they were going to have us race and I thought, hey I can at least beat a goalie. I hit my head harder than him so I was going to take him out. He did it but I was actually doing an Iron Man for my foundation Companions in Courage down in Florida.
The opportunity came up again and they said they would love for me and Dan Jansen to promote the Run For Something Better and the Orange Laces the foundation they promote and I said I'd love to. I've always wanted to run a marathon and I was approached a few years ago so I agreed.
It seems like I get involved with these charities and these corporations that give back, especially to kids. That was one of the real important things for me is that it was a win-win. Obviously there is a childhood obesity issue in our country and kids aren't made aware. There are the fast food commercials that are out there and on computers. ING realized the importance of creating programs and running programs and they partnered around the ING NYC Marathon so for me it was a win-win. To do the marathon and partner with ING and Dan Jansen for an important cause that our country desperately needs.
I've read that they have already impacted 50,000 kids in the cities where they have these marathons, so it was a good fit. Another thing I liked was they have a Lion for their logo and I have a Lion for my logo. I'm excited for the race and I hear nothing but great things so I'm excited.
DBTB: You mentioned your charity Companions in Courage. Many people don't know much about it and how it affects us right here in Buffalo. Tell us a little bit about Companions in Courage.
LaFontaine: Companions in Courage was a book that I wrote and it revolved a lot around my days in Buffalo. It developed into this great foundation where we build interactive game rooms throughout the country. We've done two of them right there in Buffalo at Roswell Park and Women's and Children's Hospital. We also have a kiosk that has been created and we have supplied over 60 Children's Hospitals with these units that are stand alone units for kids that can't leave their room, so they can still feel connected and have these interactive games.
DBTB: As site dedicated to writing about the Buffalo Sabres, I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you a few questions about your time in Buffalo and just hockey in general. Your time in Buffalo didn't end the way you or anyone else would have hoped. What was it like when you came back to Buffalo and you had your jersey retired?
LaFontaine: That was extra special, it was icing on the cake. There are two things you never dream of happening when you play a sport, that is going into the hall-of-fame and the other is having your jersey retired. Having that thrill and honor bestowed upon me during the 05-06 time is something I'll cherish forever. I had my family with me and my dad was there and a lot of friends we up for that weekend and I'll never forget that.
As years go by you sit back and pinch yourself and appreciate the time you spent. I know it was only six years there but it's a home away from home and whenever I think of my time there I get a big grin on my face. I realize how lucky I was, it was great time there. Both of our children were born there and I have a lot of friendships. I was captain of the team most of my time there and it was a great community.
I got to know the Knox family during that time, I was close with Seymour, Gene, Norty, Seymour III and their families. It was fond memories and something we hold near and dear and cherish.
DBTB: This is somewhat of a question for me personally and something I've always wondered about. You were a key member of the 1984 Olympic team that had huge expectations because of the 1980 team. What was it like to be a member of that team and deal with those huge expectations?
LaFontaine: What was interesting was, we were all products of that 1980 team. Everywhere we went there were receptions and there was talk about the 1980 team and the miracle on ice. We were fortunate to follow that team even though we went to Sarajevo and we went 2-2-2. It made you truly appreciate what that 1980 team did and it was that much more special.
DBTB: Looking ahead to the future. Many fans put great players like yourself on a pedestal and assume they would be great coaches or managers. Have you ever given any thought to coaching or managing in the NHL?
LaFontaine: I have thought about it and I am coaching right now. I'm coaching my sons Bantam Major team and I'm enjoying that aspect of coaching right now. If someone were to ask me and it was the right environment I would love to be a part of building and watching a team grow.
At least not for the next three or four years because being able to watch my kids grow and develop has been a blessing. I wouldn't want to do anything unless I had that time to be able to watch my kids and coach them and be part of them growing up.
I edited some of the answers for space and to keep it short enough. I will post the audio of the interview so he can hear it in it's entirety.
Lighthouse Hockey and Blueshirt Banter also talked to LaFontaine and you can also read their interviews.
Pat LaFontaine - click on Pat LaFontaine to hear the full audio of the interview.