I never saw Rick Martin play. Wikipedia tells me that I was just four years old when Capitals goalie Mike Palmateer shredded Martin's knee and effectively ended his career.
I didn't need to see him play, though, to understand how important he is to the history of the Buffalo Sabres. Without him the French Connection wouldn't have existed. Perhaps the Stanley Cup Finals berth in 1975 wouldn't have, either. Who knows what the future would have held for hockey in Buffalo if not for the massive popularity of those '70s Sabres teams, something Rick Martin was very much a big part of.
In light of Martin's tragic passing, how wonderful was it to see the French Connection on the ice one last time to welcome Terry Pegula as new owner of the Sabres just three weeks ago? It's as if the hockey gods, knowing Martin's time was short, arranged for one final reunion.
Rest in peace, Rico. Thank you for everything.
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