March 13, 2011
Very sad news today as former Buffalo Sabre Rick Martin passed away after suffering a heart attack while driving. Martin was 59.
Along with Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert, the trio made up the legendary "French Connection" line for the Sabres. Martin was a prolific scoring winger for the team, registering eight seasons of 32 goals or more, including back-to-back 52-goal campaigns. A seven-time All-Star and two-time 1st Team NHLer, Martin had his No. 7 retired to the rafters in Buffalo in 1995 and is flanked by the retired numbers of his former linemates.
The Buffalo News caught up with Robert and Perreault after the news broke.
"It's like a bad dream," said Robert, who is in Florida visiting his daughter. "First my brother, then my left winger. I lose Rico [Martin]. I tell you what. This one is going to be tough for everybody in Buffalo.
"It's too bad. [Owner Terry] Pegula just put us together. He told us, 'You guys are going to be here now until you die.' "
"It's sad news," Perreault said. "It's a reminder that you never know in life. I mean, he was 59. That's young, and he always seemed to be in such good shape.
"I hadn't seen him much in the past 20 years, but you don't forget all the years you played together. We were together since my days in junior. I stayed at his house for a year. Oh, Rick was a guy with all the jokes. He was funny and people really enjoyed being in his presence. He was a great golfer, too. That was his passion after hockey."
An air of change was infused into the franchise by Pegula's purchase and like we saw with the Chicago Blackhawks, there will be a large emphasis on bringing Sabres alumni back into the fold.
It was just two weeks ago at the press conference introducing Terry Pegula as the new owner of the Sabres that the "French Connection" was reunited. Pegula, a lifelong Sabres fan, became emotional when he learned that Perreault, Martin and Robert were in attendance.
Martin is survived by his wife and two sons.