NEW YORK — Hockey Hall of Famers Pat LaFontaine and Luc Robitaille will represent the NHL as guests of Pope Francis during a three-day global conference focusing on faith and sport at the Vatican from Oct. 5-7.
The inaugural Sport at the Service of Humanity conference will bring together 150 athletes and executives in an attempt to promote positive values and inspire youth.
Brazilian soccer legend Pele, professional tennis player Roger Federer and retired NBA players Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo also will attend.
“I’m honored to be representing the NHL with Luc and (NHL vice president, corporate social responsibility, NHL green) Omar Mitchell, and be a part of this historic gathering,” LaFontaine told NHL.com on Thursday. “We’re representing the League and hockey, but there’s a culture within our game where players really do set a great example of giving back.
“This is a congregation of athletes and faiths coming together for something much bigger than all of us; it’s a service to humanity. How can we affect change and help the next generation grow in a positive way?”
LaFontaine will head to Rome with his wife, Marybeth. Robitaille will be joined by wife Stacia. The conference will include an opening ceremony with the pope, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
LaFontaine and Robitaille are delegates at the conference because of their long-standing charitable work with children.
“When you bring together religion, faith, belief, principles and the value of sport, I think you can have a very powerful conference that ultimately will bring change,” LaFontaine said. “To have someone such as the pope bring his message with an ability to reach so many people, that’s a great way to channel all of this and create a vision for future generations.”
It has been 20 years since LaFontaine introduced children and families of North America to his Companions in Courage Foundation. An organization used to build interactive game rooms in children’s hospitals, CiC was founded by LaFontaine as a response to the inspiration he derived visiting children in hospitals during his playing career.
Echoes of Hope, a charity founded by Luc and Stacia Robitaille in 2007, has helped nurture the lives of at-risk and emancipated foster children by providing the necessary resources, skills and support they need to reach their potential.
“The hope is that an event like this will inspire many leaders to be able to deliver those principles, change behaviors and grow cultures to elevate and lift a generation,” LaFontaine said. “I believe only good can come of this when you inspire and have all these great people come together.”
LaFontaine, who received the 2008 Heisman Humanitarian Award, retired from the NHL in 1998 after 15 seasons, 468 goals and 1,013 points in 865 games with the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers. In 2003, the two-time Olympian was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Robitaille, who had three stints with the Los Angeles Kings over a 19-year career that included time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Rangers, retired in 2006 with 1,394 points in 1,431 games. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
“I was privileged to play in the NHL but the people, relationships and values of the game and what I learned was that it was the stepping stone and a great teacher for what I’m doing today,” LaFontaine said. “In the end, it’s about giving back and the service to the next generation and that’s what gets me excited. [Robitaille] and me have been blessed and we’ve scored a lot of goals in our careers, but now it’s all about assists and watching someone else score their goals. It’s about supporting the next generation.”