The French Connection
Gilbert Perreault can best be described as the “Original Sabre.” The NHL Hall of Famer was Buffalo’s first-ever draft choice and set the standard for all future Sabres to be measured. Perreault earned the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year following his inaugural 1970-71 campaign. Even Perreault’s uniform number bore the marks of an original Sabre, as it was #11 that came up on the wheel that gave Buffalo the first overall pick in the 1970 draft. Perreault’s sportsmanship and outstanding play also helped him capture the Lady Byng Trophy in 1973.
One of Perreault’s six NHL All-Star games was the 1978 edition in Buffalo when he scored the game-winning goal 3:55 into overtime. He also served as the Sabres’ team captain from 1981-82 until his November 1986 retirement. Perreault is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, as well as both the Buffalo Sabres and Greater Buffalo Sports Halls of Fame. Perreault is still the team’s all-time leader in career (regular season) games played, goals, assists, points and game-winning goals. There was only one number 11 in Buffalo Sabres history and, rightfully so, will never be another.
Buffalo Sabre fans saw Rick Martin in almost 750 regular season and playoff games between 1971 and 1981. Number 7’s career with the Sabres was highlighted by a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1974-75. That spring, Martin finished with 52 goals, one of which was the 1,000th in team history. The year prior, on the final night of the 1973-74 campaign, he recorded a hat trick at “The Aud” against St. Louis to become the first player in Sabres’ history to record 50 or more goals in one season.
Martin even gave the hometown fans a reason to cheer in a game at “The Aud” in which he wasn’t even wearing a Sabres’ uniform. On Jan. 24, 1978, he scored the tying goal in the 31st NHL All-Star Game with just 1:39 left in regulation time to force overtime. That was just one of seven of the League’s showcase games he would appear in during his career. He still holds two single-season Sabres records and is tied for another. In addition, Martin remains in the top three in seven of Buffalo’s (regular season) career leaders categories.
With the warm spring air mixing with “The Aud” ice, Rene Robert skated out of the mist and scored the famous “Fog Goal” by beating Flyers’ goalie Bernie Parent in overtime of game three of the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals. The historic goal might not have taken place if not for the Sabres’ persistence in acquiring Robert. His road to Buffalo started by the Sabres claiming him from Toronto, only to lose the winger to Pittsburgh in the Intra-League draft on June 8, 1971. The Sabres were then able to acquire the final component of “The French Connection” in a trade with the Penguins on March 4, 1972.
Robert finished the 1974-75 regular season with 100 points, marking the first time in club annals that a player reached the century mark in points in one season. That season, Robert was voted by his teammates as Buffalo’s most valuable player. He later recorded another Sabres milestone by scoring the 2,000th goal in club history on Dec. 22, 1977. Robert still ranks as Buffalo’s fifth all-time assist leader with 330 in his career with the Sabres. Coincidentally, Robert had also once worn number 7 in the blue and gold. He played in both the 1973 and 1975 NHL All-Star games.