The mood is quickly turning somber in HSBC Arena as word is trickling out that Sabres Hall of Famer Rick Martin died today of a heart attack at age 59.
"I’ve loved that man since I was 9 years old," Paula Pierce, clad in a white Martin No. 7 jersey, said while fighting back tears. "I remember I fell in love with him when he first stepped on the ice. It was like, He was mine."
The 49-year-old Pierce smiled while recalling past encounters with the winger, who stayed in the area following his playing days.
"I remember one time at the Sabres Carnival I got to sit on his lap and have my picture taken with him," Pierce said. "I remember my knees were shaking. He signed my jersey at that Farewell to the Aud thing. He was just here. We just saw him.
"I'm just crushed."
Martin earned fame as a member of the French Connection with Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert. Pierce remembers Martin as the outgoing member of the trio.
"The other two they signed their names, eh, whatever. He always just talked," Pierce said. "He always had something to say. He just seemed more personable. He just had that flair.
"I would make my aunt go get gas at his garage, Rico’s Trucks and Stuff on the boulevard. They were something special. He was always around. He never left."