The departure was steeped in bitterness and acrimony, the reunion is the sugar coated thing of a Disney movie. After far too many years, the Buffalo Sabres have patched up their differences with Pat Lafontaine.
The Sabres organization announced on Monday that Lafontaine's number 16 and Danny Gare's number 18 will be retired from service. Putting the two former Sabres into some elite company of Blue and Gold hue, the two will join Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, Rene Robert and Tim Horton up in the rafters.
The Lafontaine story did not end well in Buffalo, in a move tied to a salary dump the Sabres refused to let him play after suffering his fifth concussion in 1996-97. They cut all ties to him the following year and he moved on to New York to play for the Islanders, wrapping up his fifteen year career in 1998 after one final concussion. To have his time in Buffalo end in such a vitriolic fashion was not a fair conclusion for both Lafontaine and his beloved fans in Buffalo. In fact the incompetent handling of the Lafontaine era contributed to the near death experience of the Sabres of a few years ago. The management of the time had no sense of history nor the fans attachment to the young American who helped keep hockey alive in upstate New York.
Gare will see his uniform officially retired on November 22nd, Lafontaine will have his night on the ice on March 3rd in a game against Toronto.
The Sabres have made some positive strides since their days of bankruptcy and the perp walk of the former owners. A new page has been turned, and not surprisingly it's a page that leads back to happier days for the Sabre faithful.
Update and correction! To stem off the flow of hate mail, Pat Lafontaine went to the Rangers to end his career, not the Islanders as I stated. (I knew that, you know, no idea why I typed in Islanders.) At any rate thanks to Phil (see comments below) for pointing out my error. For the record here is the definitive career path of Pat Lafontaine.