With 1,116 goals and 2,573 points already to their credit, the iconic French Connection added to their legacy on Friday night when the Buffalo Sabres unveiled a statue honoring the greatest line in franchise history. Former teammates Rick Martin, Gilbert Perreault, and Rene Robert are now forever enshrined in bronze as the centerpiece of the new Alumni Plaza outside of the First Niagara Center.
Robert and Perreault were on hand to celebrate the unveiling, and Cory Martin, son of the late Rick Martin, was there on behalf of his father. Just before Cory Martin addressed the fans and Sabres alumni in attendance, a shout of “Rick Martin rules!” was bellowed out by one fan.
“It’s my father in a statue; it kind of brings a tear to my eye,” said Cory Martin during the event. “A larger than life version of my father, it’s like being a kid again. It’s kind of humbling to see the love this city has for these three and the rest of the team,” Martin continued, pausing to try to contain his emotion.
“Who would have thought, growing up in Quebec playing street hockey, fantasizing about one day playing in the NHL,” said Robert as he addressed the crowd. “Never mind standing here some 50 years later, looking at this [statue].”
“I am very impressed,” Perreault said in his distinctive French-Canadian accent. “This is a big thrill. I was very lucky to have played with Rene and Rick.”
The seven-foot tall statue has been a vision of owner Terry Pegula’s since he purchased the team two years ago. Famed sports sculptor Jerry McKenna was commissioned to create the statue.
Who would have thought, growing up in Quebec playing street hockey, fantasizing about one day playing in the NHL. Never mind standing here some 50 years later, looking at this [statue]. - Rene Robert
“This is a statue of three people who played hockey in this town, who inspired me not only through the way they played, but what they accomplished on the ice,” Pegula said. “There’s going to be three individuals on this statue, but every Sabres alum, you can’t believe how you are appreciated. We want to thank you, because this is Alumni Plaza.”
The statue is based off of a picture by photographer Ron Moscati, who snapped the image during a playoff win over the Montreal Canadiens in April of 1975.
“I’ve taken a lot of big pictures. How it’s going to last forever, that’s going to make it the biggest thing that I have been a part of,” Moscati said of his famed picture. It is believed to be one of the few pictures of the three skating together during a game.
The fact the statue will be in Alumni Plaza forever was a very eye-opening realization for all those involved in the project, especially for Cory Martin.
“I can’t really put it into words, to know that I can bring my future kids to see their grandfather that they never had. For as long as it’s standing, I can do that.”
Moscati did a good job describing what this statue means for the city of Buffalo and the feelings it evokes from not only those involved, but also from present and future fans of the Sabres.
“It’s goose pimples. It’s for this city. I think the citizens out here are really going to enjoy having [the statue] here.”