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Pat Lafontaine

LaFontaine Wins Heisman (Humanitarian)

Pat LaFontaine has received many awards and recognitions during his life, but he probably received one of the more unusual calls in early December when representatives of the Heisman Trophy Trust notified the hockey star that he would be the recipient of their annual humanitarian award for 2008.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award recognizes and honors exemplary selfless individuals, who give of themselves to improve the plight of those less fortunate or afflicted. The Heisman Trust hopes to encourage others to emulate the recipient’s contribution to the common good.

LaFontaine said, “I was truly honored to be the only hockey player among all of the greats from college football. I was a fan of so many of the past Heisman winners and I was flattered to be in their company.” He added, “We are truly indebted to the members of the Heisman Trust who have enabled our foundation to continue to support sick children.”

In addition to being recognized at the Heisman Award dinner, LaFontaine accepted a check for $50,000 from the Heisman Trust to the CiC Foundation. The hockey star was invited to the nationally-televised Heisman Trophy telecast and he was among the first to congratulate Sam Bradford of the University of Oklahoma after he won the award.

Bradford told LaFontaine that he was a big hockey fan growing up in Oklahoma City and that his favorite player had been Pavel Bure when he played for the Vancouver Canucks. Former Islanders and Rangers defenseman Mike McEwen had been Bradford’s youth hockey coach and encouraged the youngster to forego other sports and focus on his future on the ice. “I told (his dad) that if he stuck with hockey, he was good enough to make the NHL,” McEwen recalls. “Sam really thought we should pack up our bags and move to Vancouver,” said Martha Bradford, Sam’s mom. “He really wanted to play ice hockey for the Vancouver Canucks.”

Sam’s hockey sense and leadership skills landed him the role as team captain of the Oklahoma City Junior Blazers, but once he got to high school, the reality set in that he would have to narrow down his many athletic activities –– a tough choice to make for someone now known for great decision making.

The new Heisman on his shelf was a nice endorsement that Bradford probably made the right decision to stick with football. He delivered an eloquent acceptance speech and thanked his mom and dad for the influence they had on him as a youngster.

LaFontaine addressed the same packed ballroom at the New York Hilton and received multiple standing ovations from the crowd as he told stories of sick children who had found relief in Lion’s Den Rooms. He thanked the Trust for their generosity and assured them that the donation would be put to good use.

Previous winners of the Heisman Humanitarian Award have been former New York Giant George Martin and Olympic champion Joey Cheek.

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