Rick Martin, one-third of the most fabled line in Buffalo Sabres history, died today of a heart attack. He was 59.
Martin reportedly had a heart attack while driving in Clarence, a law enforcement officer said on the condition of anonymity.
Martin became etched in local lore as the high-scoring winger on the "French Connection," skating alongside Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert as the infant Sabres captured the area’s attention.
Martin helped welcome new Sabres owner Terry Pegula to town late last month, skating onto the ice with Perreault and Robert and shaking Pegula’s hand at center ice as the fans in HSBC Arena cheered.
Rene Robert was already reeling from tragic news when he heard about his former linemate's death at around 2:30 this afternoon. Early this morning, Robert got a phone call informing him that his older brother, Real, had died of a heart attack in Montreal. Real, a musician, was the eldest of 10 children.
"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.'"
Gllbert Perreault, the center on the great French Connection line, was watching hockey at his home in Victoriaville when he heard the news.
"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."