Happy Monday. The Sabres are expected to be off today following back-to-back games over the weekend, including the end of a seven-game road trip. So we'll start with your usual look around the NHL, starting right here in the B-lo with the death of Rick Martin:
*Rick Martin became part of Buffalo lore because of his athletic talents. He was one-third of the most fabled line in Sabres history, and his scoring ability created fans and admirers.
It was away from the rink, however, where Martin really made an impression on Western New Yorkers. The fun-loving Quebec native took time to talk with fans when he played in the 1970s, and the long chats continued after his retirement, when he chose to stay in the area. He was quick with a joke, often told in the relaxed setting of a tavern, golf course or autograph session.
If there was a party, Martin was usually the life of it.
That was the Martin that Mike Robitaille chose to remember Sunday while mourning the death of his former teammate. Martin died Sunday afternoon at age 59 while driving in Clarence, a sudden death that brought tears to eyes throughout HSBC Arena and the area.
"What are we doing being so emotional when what he stands for is to have fun and laugh?" Robitaille said prior to the Sabres' home game against Ottawa. "Man, we should have the biggest party in the world for Richard. If he was in this situation, he'd have it for himself."
*Jerry Sullivan writes that losing Martin, the greatest pure goal scorer in Sabres history, is a death in the family of Buffalo hockey. It comes at an especially emotional time for Sabres fans, whose hopes have been soaring since Terry Pegula bought the team three weeks ago and declared that winning the Stanley Cup was his sole driving ambition.
Martin was a wondrous talent who scored 44 goals as a rookie and averaged 47 goals over his first five seasons. He touched the community with his charity work and his lively personality in charity golf outings. Apparently, he didn't know how to say no.
"Oh, God. Most everything I asked him to do, he did for free," said Larry Playfair, the longtime head of the Sabres Alumni. "He was the life of the party. Everybody wanted him in the tournament, and everybody wanted to play with him."
"It's too bad," French Connection linemate Rene Robert said. "Pegula had just put us together. He told us that night, 'Now you're going to be here until you die.' I tell you, I'm speechless. When you play that long with two guys, they're family. At least there was time to bring us all back together one more time."
*Paul Gaustad knew a lot of people in Sabreland were hurting Sunday following the death of team legend Rick Martin. Gaustad figured, aside from Martin's family, the Buffalo coaching staff might be grieving most. Lindy Ruff played with Martin and has been his friend, golf buddy and co-worker for 32 years. Martin spent time as an assistant on Ruff's coaching staff in 2003.
So while Gaustad's teammates were at one end of the HSBC Arena ice celebrating a 6-4 victory over Ottawa, the center skated to the opposite end to retrieve the game puck. It was presented to the coaching staff to bring a few smiles on an otherwise sad day.
"It was for Rico," Gaustad said. "It's a tough loss for the Sabres. I thought we responded well to it, but it's just a sad day for the Sabres."
The Sabres, playing their first home game since Feb. 26, skated to center ice following the victory and raised their sticks toward Martin's banner in the rafters in a sign of tribute and condolence.
"It was important for us to do that," forward Tyler Ennis said. "He was an unbelievable player, one of the best Sabres to ever play, so we just had to honor him."
*The News has compiled a photo gallery of Martin through the years.
*Concussions will be on the minds of the National Hockey League's general managers when they meet for three days starting today in Florida.
"If you listen to the media and read the papers north of the border, there's tremendous pressure to at least revisit [the subject of reducing head injuries in the game]," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said. "I think we're going to have to do that."
Regier says the discussion will try to stick to the facts at hand as a starting point.
"You have 30 general mangers with differing views," he said. "One of the things the league has done is bring a lot of factual information in to have a conversation, versus guys saying, 'I think it's this.' The league has done a very good job in that regard. There are equipment issues. Those things will be discussed."
*The Maine Hockey Journal writes that in the battle for first place in the Atlantic Division, the Portland Pirates will be welcoming some much needed time off.
The Pirates, who are playing a season-high 15 games in the month of March, including this current stretch of six games in nine nights, simply ran out of gas, falling to the Manchester Monarchs, 4-2, in front of 5,487 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Sunday afternoon.