Originally written on The Victory Formation  |  Last updated 4/4/12

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 26: General manager Garth Snow of the New York Islanders talks to the media during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Pat LaFontaine was the face of the New York Islanders following their glory years of the early 80s. He was one of the best players in the NHL, and is one of the best American-born hockey players off all-time. During his 7 years with the team, he scored 287 goals and recorded 238 assists. But if you were to go to Islanders games, unless you find fans wearing his old jersey, you will be hard pressed to know that he even existed.

This stems from a long running feud with team owner, Charles Wang. It might be better described as a grudge from Wang more than anything else. LaFontaine was once an un-paid adviser to Wang during the 2006 season. It only lasted 40 days because of a decision that LaFontaine was against. Wang made the decision at the time to fire then GM Neil Smith, and replaced him with Garth Snow. Oddly enough, Snow was the current backup goaltender. Smith had only been on the job for about 6 weeks, and LaFontaine disagreed with the move and advised against it. LaFontaine would step down from his position because he did not agree with the direction of the club.

That decision from LaFontaine was enough for Wang to basically stricken the existence of him from the annals of Islanders history. This past year, for example, the Islanders have been celebrating their 40th Anniversary. They show highlight packages at Nassau Coliseum, but you won’t catch LaFontaine on the video screen. 42 tickets were distributed this season with different members of the organization on them, but LaFontaine isn’t on one. His jersey won’t ever be lifted up to the rafters as long as Wang is owner. When LaFontaine visited the arena back in 2008, he wasn’t granted a credential when it was requested. He hasn’t been back since.

One of the most disturbing instances of refusal to recognize LaFontaine came last September:

In September, he and former Islander Steve Webb biked 550 miles over 48 hours, from Toronto to New York, to raise money for charity. The Islanders issued a news release on their website about the event. The release mentioned Webb, but not LaFontaine. The Islanders confirmed these events happened but didn’t comment.

This was an opportunity to help raise awareness, and LaFontaine’s name would have helped in that regard, but Wang’s reluctance and this silly battle to save face destroyed the chance. Don’t be fooled, this is in Wang’s court. He has refused to speak with the media about this relationship, and LaFontaine has publicly stated that he had tried to reconcile with him, only to be rebuffed.

The Islanders have been a joke of a franchise for the last several years. This is a team that was the toast of the NHL until the Wayne Gretzky and his Oilers showed up. But since then, boneheaded moves, and selfish ownership have done nothing but drive this team to the brink of non-existence. They play in an arena that has been charged with asbestos related incidents, and even destroyed a pretty decent sweater by putting the Gorton’s Fisheman on it for a short period. The fact that Wang refuses to at least acknowledge one of their greatest players shows that it isn’t about the fans or the team but about his pride and a wallet.

H/T WSJ

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