NHL

René Robert of Sabres' famed 'French Connection' dead at 72

Rene Robert, a member of the Buffalo Sabres' famed "French Connection Line," died Tuesday at a Florida hospital less than a week after suffering a heart attack. He was 72.

Buffalo legend passes away less than a week after suffering heart attack

In this Feb. 23, 2011 file photo, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula, second from right, poses with former Sabres players René Robert (14), Rick Martin (7) and Gilbert Perreault (11) before an NHL hockey game. (David Duprey/The Associated Press)

René Robert, a member of the Buffalo Sabres' famed "French Connection Line," died Tuesday at a Florida hospital less than a week after suffering a heart attack. He was 72.

The Sabres confirmed Robert's death in a statement released by the team. Robert had been on life support since being hospitalized in Port Charlotte, Fla., in the middle of last week.

"René was a tremendous player, teammate and person and truly loved this organization," the Sabres said. "His accomplishments on the ice as a member of the French Connection speak for themselves, but his impact in the community continued long past his playing career."

Acquired by the Sabres in a trade that sent Eddie Shack to Pittsburgh in 1972, Robert went on to round out one of the most productive lines in NHL history. Robert played right wing alongside left wing Rick Martin and Hockey Hall of Fame center Gilbert Perreault on a line that earned its nickname because all three players were from Quebec.

Robert was from Trois-Rivières, about a 90-minute drive east of Montreal.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula grew up in Pennsylvania, but became a Buffalo fan because of the "French Connection Line." Upon purchasing the Sabres in February 2011, Pegula became emotional during his inaugural news conference at the sight of Perreault, Robert and Martin among those in attendance.

The trio then joined Pegula on the ice before his first game as owner in what marked one of the last times the linemates were together. Martin died a month later.

A view of the banner that hangs in the rafters at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

"Kim and I were saddened to hear the devastating news," Pegula said, mentioning his wife, in a statement released by the team.

"During our time with the team, Rene has been one of the most active alumni and we've grown to know him well over the past 10 years," Pegula said. "He was a friend to us and to the entire organization and will be missed dearly."

The Sabres have memorialized the line by erecting a statue of the three players that stands in a plaza outside their arena. Their numbers also have been retired, and their names hang together from the rafters in the arena.

Robert scored a career-high 40 goals twice during his seven-plus seasons in Buffalo. He was traded to the then-Colorado Rockies in 1979 and closed his career with Toronto in 1981-82.

In 524 games with Buffalo, Robert had 222 goals and 552 points. Overall, he finished with 284 goals and 702 points in 744 NHL games.

He also was known for his playoff production, collecting 22 goals and 39 points in 47 postseason games with the Sabres. Four of his goals were game-winners, including three in overtime.

In this Dec. 12, 1977 file photo, Robert, front, beats Vancouver Canucks' Don Lever to the puck. (AP)

Robert's most memorable goal, scored 18:29 into overtime, sealed Buffalo's 5-4 win over Philadelphia in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in 1975.

It finished what became known as "The Fog Game," with a heavy mist shrouding the ice because of poor air-conditioning at Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium. The Flyers went on to win the series in six games.

Robert maintained a home in Buffalo after he retired and eventually had his driveway built out of pieces of the auditorium after it was demolished in 2009.

He was an avid golfer, and remained active in numerous charitable functions in Buffalo.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now