Toughest Charity Ride Ever
MEN'S HEALTH MAGAZINE
by Mike Darling
In the prime of their NHL careers, Pat LaFontaine and Steve Webb played vastly different roles. The former rates among the most dazzling American forwards of all-time, a perennial all-star who scored more than 1,000 points in a hall-of-fame career with the Islanders, Sabres, and Rangers cut short by concussions. The latter was known as a bruising tough guy—a fan favorite on the Islanders and Penguins for his willingness to drop the gloves and penchant for delivering pulverizing open-ice hits.
LaFontaine, 46, and Webb, 36, will team up on the road next Monday, September 19, when they attempt to complete a 500-mile charity bike ride from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto to the NHL’s New York City headquarters in just 48 hours. Both men have completed multiple rides and races individually before, but the upcoming race will pose their biggest challenge yet.
Webb will ride in support of the W20 Foundation, which offers scholarships to youth hockey players and also benefits Alzheimer’s and dementia research, while LaFontaine will raise money for Companions in Courage (CIC16.org), a non-profit that supports children’s hospitals.
“I’d done charity rides before,” says Webb, who organized the race. “But this time I thought, ‘What if I made the ride a lot tougher to help our charities get more attention?’ ”
To finish on time, the cyclists will have to endure a grueling physical test—pedaling at least 14 hours and 275 miles per day, and fueling up every 15 minutes on bananas and peanut butter sandwiches. “I’ll burn about 1,500 calories an hour just because of my build,” says the 225-pound Webb, who will also be equipped with a special device that plays aloud every message sent to his Twitter handle (@SteveWebb20).
Despite their age difference, LaFontaine isn’t worried about keeping up with Webb. “I’ve done six Ironman triathlons, so I’ve had those long, strenuous days of swimming, biking and running,” he says. “And when you’re doing something for a higher purpose, you can always do more than you think. A lot of it is mental. You can’t let the mind tell the body what it can’t do.”
The pairing of LaFontaine and Webb may seem unexpected, but the former pros actually have a long history of working together, first becoming acquainted as coaches in a Long Island youth hockey program in 2009.
“I’ve done some events with Webby, and I love his passion for helping others,” LaFontaine says. “He volunteers his time for the youth hockey team, so when he came to me and said he needed my help, I told him, ‘You name it, I’ll be there.’”
For LaFontaine, the upcoming charity ride is only the latest chapter in more than a decade devoted to service. In 2000, he published Companions in Courage, a book of inspirational stories about athletes overcoming daunting odds. His charity of the same name now builds high-tech gaming rooms in children’s hospitals across the country, helping improve the quality of life for kids requiring long-term care.
“We’ve created these safe havens where kids can just escape and have fun,” he says.
Proceeds from next week’s ride will go toward building a gaming room in an Ottawa hospital.
“The tough days are what those kids have to go through every day,” LaFontaine says. “By comparison, this is going to be an easy two days.”