Pat LaFontaine: Still Active in a Big Way

As most of you knowledgeable New York Ranger and hockey fans know, Pat LaFontaine is a former center in the NHL who played his entire career for all three New York State-based teams: the New York Islanders (1983–1991), Buffalo Sabres (1991–1997), and New York Rangers (1997–98). In 1998, after 15 years in the NHL, LaFontaine unfortunately had to retire prematurely as a result of a series of head traumas and concussions suffered through his career.

I was lucky enough to speak with Pat LaFontaine on the phone yesterday evening regarding a new program he is involved with – the ING (a financial services leader) Run for Something Better Program. The program is designed to encourage children to be physically fit.

As part of the program, he and Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen will be hanging up their skates and putting on their running shoes to participate in the 2009 New York City Marathon on Sunday November 1.

“ING realized a long time ago (7 years to be exact) that there is an obesity problem in our country as kids are not getting the physical activity that they should,” said LaFontaine. “It has affected over 50,000 kids in the United States and it is time for kids to learn about the importance of physical fitness.”

As part of the program, LaFontaine will be wearing a pair of ING’s signature orange shoe laces. You could compare the orange shoe laces to Lance Armstrong’s yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet (which promotes the battle against Cancer) as the orange shoe laces symbolize the need for awareness regarding physical fitness and a healthier lifestyle.

If one makes a $10 or more charitable donation to the ING Run for Something Better Program, he or she will receive a pair of the orange laces to help promote a healthier lifestyle whether it’s in the home with your children, at work, at school, etc.

“The more families and kids that log on and donate, the more the message is able to get out,” said LaFontaine said. “It is becoming increasingly important to get kids to get out there and exercise and live a healthy lifestyle.”

LaFontaine explained to me how easy it is for kids to not want to be active, especially with television, video games, the computer and fast food restaurants prevalent all throughout the country. According to LaFontaine, this just proves that things are not getting easier and that the probability of a kid becoming obese is high.

“If a kid was obese, he or she could end up having major problems later on in their life,” said LaFontaine. “Who wants that? Instead, it is better for a kid to find some kind of balance, be better educated about the effects of obesity and to get involved in physical activities.”

When LaFontaine was younger, aside from playing hockey, he was extremely active, physically. He took up baseball, basketball, water skiing, golf and was active all the time. This is one of the main reasons why he wanted to be a part of ING’s Run for Something Better program.

“I’ve always wanted to run in the NYC Marathon and help promote an active lifestyle for kids,” said LaFontaine. “ING’s Run for Something Better program is giving me the opportunity to do just that.”

Since retiring from professional hockey in 1998, LaFontaine has remained active both physically and charitably. Six years ago, he started training for and taking part in triathlons and used the charitable aspect of it to help The Companions in Courage Foundation, an organization he founded to build interactive game rooms in children’s hospitals throughout North America.

“I always knew how to bike but wanted to learn and run so I could compete in triathlons,” said LaFontaine. “It has become a great lifestyle for me and it’s wonderful to raise a lot of money for something you strongly believe in.”

Before ending our conversation, LaFontaine offered up some excellent advice for parents who are looking to help their kids become more physically active and live a healthier lifestyle.

“Adults and parents need to lead by example,” said LaFontaine. “Help your kids join different programs that promote physical fitness and encourage them to learn what happens to the body when it is not active. It is important to make a difference now to help kids avoid problems later on in life.”