NHL notebook: LaFontaine still competing
Shawn P. Roarke / Special to FOXSports.com
Despite retiring from the NHL seven years ago, Pat LaFontaine has
lost none of the competitiveness that was at the root of his Hall of
Today, he just finds new outlets for the drive that pushed him to
become one of the greatest American-born players to ever lace up the
skates. Unbelievably, one of those new outlets just happens to be
competing in triathlons one of the most demanding athletic contests
Not surprisingly, he likes the athletic challenges the triathlon a
2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run presents.
But, more importantly, LaFontaine likes the opportunity to raise
funds for his charity, the Companions in Courage Foundation (
http://www.cic16.org), through his participation.
CiC is dedicated to giving courage, friendship, compassion and
support to children and families who are overcoming illness and life-
Improving the plight of sick children has been one of LaFontaine's
main goals since he began his NHL career and formed a working
relationship with the Buffalo Children's Hospital during his time
with the Sabres. Today, he works extensively to spread the word about
his foundation, which is currently raising funds to build interactive
playrooms in children's hospitals throughout North America.
Last year, LaFontaine ran in his first triathlon, the Florida
Ironman. He raised more than $40,000 by finishing that event in a
little more than 13 hours. Saturday, he will partake in the Florida
event again, looking to not only cut 90 minutes of his time, but top
last year's fundraising total. For that, he is willing to suffer the
aches and pains that come with the triathlon territory.
"It's still an easier day than it is for the kids in children's
hospitals who are sick and lonely," said LaFontaine, who made a
promise to himself to compete in a triathlon before his 40th birthday.
LaFontaine turned 40 in February, just three months after the Florida
event. LaFontaine also competed in another triathlon this summer.
"If you can't keep a promise to yourself, who can you keep one to?"
asks LaFontaine, who trains six days a week.
Always among the fittest players in the league during his tenure in
the NHL, LaFontaine insists this triathlon business is a whole new
"I have a whole new appreciation for professional triathletes," says
LaFontaine. "They are aerobic machines. The triathlon does test you
physically, but when you push yourself like that physically, you
learn a lot about yourself."
We already know enough about LaFontaine to understand that he is one
of hockey's truly special people.
Anyone interested in making donations to CiC can do so at the
A soul-cleansing experience
Yes, that was a huge collective exhale whistling down from the
Rockies this past week.
In a scheduling quirk that must have made the NHL a wee bit nervous,
the Vancouver Canucks found themselves in Denver for two games
against the Colorado Avalanche in a three-day span. And, oh yeah,
Thursday's opener marked the return of Todd Bertuzzi to Denver for
the first time since he broke bones in Steve Moore's neck with an
attack from behind in a game against the Avs on March 8, 2004.
Bertuzzi served a 17-month suspension for his attack and was not
reinstated until the start of this season.
Todd Bertuzzi skates in front of Avalanche fans prior to Saturday's
game in Denver. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
Needless to say, the lengthy suspension one of the longest in the
history of the game was not enough for Avalanche fans, who greeted
Bertuzzi on both nights with a reception worthy of Public Enemy No.
1. The invective and bile flowed freely from the fans, but,
fortunately, it stopped at mere heckling.
There were no on-ice shenanigans, no retribution, no further head-
hunting. There was just hockey good, clean, fast-paced action that
delivered the Avalanche a pair of much-needed victories against the
team's most bitter divisional rival.
But, the Canucks may have gotten something much more valuable than
the one point they managed to steal from the two games. They may have
gotten Bertuzzi back the Bertuzzi that was well on his way to
dominating the game before his horrible misstep against Moore, not
the one that appeared tentative and slow in his first few outings
Bertuzzi seemed to come alive as he endured the cauldron of hostility
and hate that surrounded him at the Pepsi Center. Seemingly fueled by
the boos and catcalls, Bertuzzi started playing the north-and-south
game that makes him so effective. Suddenly, the big man was again
driving the net and banging bodies creating havoc down low.
Simply, he put the power back in his power forward game. We have no
idea if Bertuzzi himself was aware of the chance because he refused
to speak to the media after his adventure in Denver.
But, others noticed his physical involvement and heightened intensity.
"Todd has really picked up his game," said Markus Naslund, Bertuzzi's
linemate. "He needs a little more time than a lot of guys that did
not play last year. He has a big body and that needs to get going.
It's a great sign."
There is a sense now that Bertuzzi has faced the unknown in Denver
and survived, if not prospered, and things can only go up from here
for the Canucks' superstar. That remains to be seen, but the signs
certainly are positive after Bertuzzi aced his biggest test yet. .
There were certainly some surprises associated with the glowing
October attendance numbers released by the league Tuesday. No, it's
not hard to believe that the league set a record for attendance in
October. Fans were starved for the game, and nobody can deny that the
league has done an excellent job in reinventing itself and getting
that message out. No, the surprise comes from some of the markets
that have enjoyed the most success this past month.
Carolina, with very little fanfare, has enjoyed a 21-percent increase
over the numbers from October 2003. Florida is at plus-19 percent.
Atlanta, despite its struggles, is up 15 percent. Nashville, not
surprisingly after its start, is up 14 percent. And, Chicago, where
ownership has done everything possible to kill of the fan base, has
drawn 13-percent more fans.
Columbus, which has won just four of its first 12 games, became
infinitely better Tuesday as the team welcomed back leading scorer
Rick Nash and top defenseman Rostislav Klesla. Nash, who scored 41
goals last year, missed 11 games with a high ankle sprain. Klesla,
who is quietly developing into an elite defender, had missed the
entire regular season after suffering a stress fracture in his leg
during the preseason.
Pavel Bure made it official this week, announcing his retirement. It
was an announcement that most fans had been suspecting ever since
Bure limped away from the Rangers during the 2002-03 season. The
Russian Rocket, one of the best offensive players to grace the league
in the past 20 years, was grounded by perpetually bad knees. Bure,
who had 30 points in 39 games with New York in his final season,
finished with 437 goals and 779 points in 702 games with Vancouver,
Florida and New York.
It did not, however, take Bure long to find a new job. He will serve
as general manager for the Russian Olympic team at the 2006 Olympic
Games in Turin, Italy. By the way, the GM duties do not include any
Injuries keep haunting the Philadelphia Flyers, who have not played
up to expectations yet. This time, it is Keith Primeau who is on the
sidelines. This one is scary, too. Primeau, the emotional leader of
the team, is out indefinitely after suffering another concussion, at
least his third concussion since February 2004, when he was hit by
Bobby Holik, then of the Rangers, and missed 21 games. There are
fears that Primeau may have had two more concussions during the
playoffs that spring, but was never tested.
Primeau admitted recently that he suffered post-concussion symptoms
until this May, more than a year after his last diagnosed concussion.
There are now concerns that Primeau will be yet another player to see
his career cut short by a series of concussions. But, Primeau is not
ready to give up the fight just yet.
"(This concussion) is not as severe as the last time," Primeau
said, "and I still want to play and I still want to win, and now is
not the time (to stop playing)."
Speaking of injuries, Boston is struggling with a run of nasty
injuries. Star defenseman Brian Leetch is the latest player to join
the infirmary. He will be out at least a month after straining the
MCL in his right knee in Tuesday's OT loss to the Islanders. The
Bruins are already without top goalie Andrew Raycroft (hamstring);
defenseman Ian Moran (knee) and center Alex Zhamnov (shoulder), who
has yet to play this season. Center Joe Thornton has also been
sidelined recently with a back injury.
Fighting is significantly down this year. Only 50 of the 174 October
games featured a fighting major, meaning the gloves were dropped in
just 28.7 percent of the month's contests. In fact, there were just
133 fighting majors in the season's first 174 games. Last year, 41.1
percent of the games featured at least one fighting major. Many
believe that the fighting numbers will pick up as divisional
rivalries intensify as the season progresses, but that seems unlikely
at the present time.