Photo by Mark Mulville/Buffalo News: Cory Martin, Gilbert Perreault, Terry Pegula and Rene Robert.
There's no NHL hockey going on right now and there might not be any for a while. But say this for the Buffalo Sabres: They still put on a good show Friday night with the official opening of Alumni Plaza.
The French Connection statue is spectacular, with nuances like Rick Martin's bushy 70s moustache, the laces of the jerseys and the skates all done in intricate detail. The Alumni Plaza mural is awesome and the brick project to honor all former players and fans who chose to buy in and join them is off to a great start.
I would imagine the Sabres would put the great video montage they used as part of the ceremony on their Web site. Well worth a look (we'll link it at some point).
Rene Robert was effusive in his praise of Terry and Kim Pegula. Robert, remember, was more than a little outspoken about the treatment alumni got under Tom Golisano and Larry Quinn.
"From the get-go that he bought the team, his intentions were to bring the alumni back and make them feel part of the family again," Robert said. "Past owners had their agendas to what they wanted to do. I'm not saying they're right or wrong. Terry had his own vision how he was going to build this team for the future by bringing the past with the present and future and I think he's doing everything the right way."
Joe Crozier, the coach who put the line together in 1972, told me in the arena pavilion after the ceremony what made the line work after Robert was acquired from Pittsburgh.
"It just fit very well,' he said. "I put him in the right side. Martin went deep on the left, Perreault went from end to end lugging the puck and Robert was the high man trailing on the play. It seemed like I would play them about 40 minutes a game because the other team couldn't check them that much.
"It's unbelievable. Perreault used to bring me coffee every morning in practice and we'd start doing our exercises. He asked me to put him in the Hall of Fame. I spoke both French and English and I did. We were very close and it's great to hear them talk about that closeness now."
Kudos to the sculptor, too. Texas-bases Jerry McKenna did a fabulous job and Sabres.com writer Kevin Snow has the story behind the work here. McKenna has done many busts for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and his personal website has plenty of them on display.
Each figure is about 7-feet high and weighs around 750 pounds. They sit on a 19-foot wide pedestal that is 10 feet deep to resemble an ice surface.
Old friend Ron Moscati took the picture that was used for the statue. The Buffalo News retiree, who turned 80 in August, said he knew he had something big the instant he developed the shot in 1975 for the Courier-Express.
"They don't skate together. One's on one side, one's over there. To get them together, keep them in focus and do all the things you need to do is almost impossible," Moscati said. "And I knew I had something from the beginning. There were other owners I couldn't really get to do something with it and understand what we had. Then this guy [Pegula] comes in from nowhere and he feels about them like the rest of us who are fans. ... He hit it right on the button."