On October 12, 2012, the Buffalo Sabres unveiled the newly named "Alumni Plaza" outside KeyBank Center, designed to honor all former members of the team. As part of the plaza's transformation, the six concrete columns that support a pedestrian walkway above the plaza were surrounded by bricks and mortar. Every player ever to play a game for the franchise is commemorated with a plaque on those bricks, detailing his first game with the Sabres.
Also unveiled that day was the centerpiece of Alumni Plaza: a cast in bronze statue depicting the French Connection. Comprised of center Gilbert Perreault, left wing Rick Martin and right wing Rene Robert, the French Connection is widely considered to be one of the greatest forward lines in NHL history and remains the most celebrated offensive unit in Buffalo Sabres history. The trio, all of whom were French-Canadian, was dubbed 'The French Connection' - after the 1971 film of the same name - and played together in Buffalo from the team's acquisition of Robert on March 4, 1972 until his departure on October 5, 1979.
Between them, the members of The French Connection played 2,396 games for the Sabres, scoring 1,116 goals and registering 2,573 total points. During their tenure in Buffalo, the three were honored with a combined 15 NHL All-Star Game appearances and seven selections to the First and Second NHL All-Star Teams. All three are members of the Sabres Hall of Fame and have had their numbers officially retired from use by the Sabres. Perreault, the franchise's first ever draft pick, served as the team's captain for five seasons and retired after 17 NHL seasons - all with the Sabres.
Inspiration for the statue came from a photograph taken during a playoff game at Memorial Auditorium on April 27, 1975 which features all three members of The French Connection. The photograph was taken by award-winning photographer Ron Moscati. During the game in which the photograph was taken, all three members of the French Connection scored a goal to lead the Sabres to a playoff win against the Montreal Canadiens.
To design and construct the statue, the Sabres commissioned distinguished American sculptor Jerry McKenna. McKenna is well known for his sports statues, and was named the 2003 'Sports Sculptor of the Year' by the All-American Football Foundation. A specially-designed pedestal, constructed by HHL Architects of Buffalo, features an integrated lighting system and an illuminated informational panel which provides a base for the statue.
THE BRICK PROJECT The proud and storied history of the Buffalo Sabres franchise has been unquestionably influenced by the long list of players who have worn the Blue and Gold on the ice. However, it is the team's loyal fans who have made truly made Buffalo a hockey hotbed for generations. For that reason, the organization decided to honor both its former players and its passionate fans in its design for an "Alumni Plaza" outside of KeyBank Center.
The plaza will be transformed into a shrine to all the Sabres players that have dazzled the hockey-crazed people of Buffalo for years. Plaques featuring the names of every player in Sabres history have been placed on brick columns across the plaza to forever immortalize their contribution to the team.
Fans who wish to have their names listed among Sabres legends will have the opportunity to purchase customized plaques to be hung along with the Sabres alumni plaques throughout the plaza. The alumni plaques listing the names of hundreds of Sabres players, in concert with the names of the fans who have cheered them for decades, will be a lasting testament and tribute of a strong hockey franchise for years to come. Fans can purchase bricks for $100.