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Rangers' LaFontaine To Retire


Concussions apparently have cut short the stellar career of New York Rangers center Pat LaFontaine.

Friday's New York Post is reporting that LaFontaine will announce his retirement at a press conference early next week in Manhattan.

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The Post report, citing a conversation with Don Meehan, LaFontaine's agent, said LaFontaine made the decision to retire after neurological specialist Dr. Jim Kelly told the player that continuing his career would put him "beyond minimal risk."

"Patty initially had a good cry but I can tell you he's completely at peace with himself," Meehan told the Post. "Once Dr. Kelly, in whom he has the utmost faith and trust, examined him and then explained his finding, the decision was clear. There was no need to get a second opinion."

LaFontaine has secured a place as one of the NHL's all-time greatest American-born players and is a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame. But head traumas curtailed his career in its prime. He missed most of the 1996-97 season with the Buffalo Sabres and was cleared to play after a trade to the Rangers last September 29th.

He suffered a Grade 2 concussion when he violently collided with then teammate Mike Keane on March 16th against the Ottawa Senators and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.

One of the few bright spots in a dismal season for the Rangers, LaFontaine scored 23 goals and added 39 assists for 62 points in 67 games last season. He has a year left on his contract, with the Rangers responsible for $1.6 million and the NHL's insurance company the other $4.8 million, should he not play.

New York acquired the 33-year-old LaFontaine from Buffalo for a 1998 second-round pick and future considerations after Sabres' executives questioned his physical condition. He suffered a concussion 13 games into the 1996-97 campaign and was not cleared to play the rest of the season. The injury came on October 17, 1996, as he took an elbow to the head from Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Francois Leroux.

The 1995 asterton Trophy winner, LaFontaine had a pair of 50-goal, 100-point seasons. He had 468 goals, 545 assists and 1,013 points in 865 career games with the Rangers, Buffalo and the New York Islanders, for whom he played his first eight seasons. He became the third American player to record 1,000 career points last season.

LaFontaine played in the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo and again represented the United States in the Olympics earlier this year in Nagano.

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