(Born December 31, 1948) -- In the summer of 1971, you could have gotten long odds that a statue would be built to honor the hockey career of Rene Robert.
The province of Quebec native turned pro in 1967 and played for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League. He spent most of 1968-69 with Rochester, where he had 63 points in 49 games. By 1971, the right winger went from the Toronto organization to Pittsburgh after playing in only five NHL games to that point.
Robert only had seven goals in 49 games as a Penguin, and was dealt to the Sabres for Eddie Shack. It was a case of the proverbial “highway robbery.” Robert scored six goals in 12 games for Buffalo in 1971-72, but was just getting warmed up.
He teamed up with Gil Perreault and Rick Martin to form “The French Connection,” one of the greatest offensive lines in history. Robert had two 40-goal seasons and scored 100 points in 1974-75.
The line was broken up for good in 1979, when the Sabres traded Robert to Colorado for John Van Boxmeer. He had one more good year with the Rockies, and finished his career with Toronto in 1982. The statue went up in Buffalo this year.
--- Budd Bailey