Saturday

Rene Robert

Rene Robert exceeded pretty much everybody's expectations. Never drafted by the NHL, Robert worked hard every shift and eventually caught the attention of NHL scouts. Soon enough Robert was placed with Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin to form one of the greatest lines in NHL history - The French Connection.

After playing three years in a unaffiliated minor leaguer, Rene's hard working, hard hitting style combined with consistent scoring caught the attention of the Toronto Maple Leafs who gave Rene a five-game tryout contract. He played in all 5 games but made little impact.

The following year the Pittsburgh Penguins plucked Rene off of the waiver list. Rene was played sparingly in Steeltown, scoring 7 goals and 18 points in 49 games. Late in the year he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for veteran tough guy Eddie Shack.

It was in Buffalo that Rene's career finally caught fire and he proved everybody wrong. He was the perfect complimentary right winger for Perreault and Martin. The two slick scoring sensations needed Robert's aggressive style. Robert would hustle into the corners and more often than not come out with the puck. He was killed enough to be able to do something with that puck too, often setting up his two marksmen linemates. His constant hustle and try not only made Perreault and Martin better players, but also made the Sabres into a true contender.

Of course, Robert is quick to downplay his importance to their success, and attributes his success to something other than hard work.

“Well, it makes your life a lot easier when you play with two tremendous hockey players. As you know back in the ‘70s, our line was very famous throughout the league. But a lot of people say, ‘What is it like to play with people like that?’ To be very honest with you, it takes an awful lot of luck. I believe everything in life comes to you with a reason and that there’s a meaning to everything that we do but the fact that I played with these guys, what made us click and what made us so good was pure luck. Chemistry was there, there’s no two ways about it. But, like I said earlier, when you play with people of that caliber, it’s a lot easier to play hockey.”

The 1972-73 season then marked the first of seven full seasons Robert would play with the Sabres. He tallied a career-high 40 goals that year and it was just a sign of things to come. Robert never failed to score fewer than 21 goals during his tenure in Buffalo.

1974-75 was a particularly strong year for Robert. He matched his career-high in goals with 40 while also registering career-bests with 60 assists and 100 points that year. Rene also helped lead the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Finals that season where they eventually fell short to the Philadelphia Flyers.

After seven-plus years in Buffalo, Rene was traded to the Colorado Rockies prior to the 1979-80 campaign. He scored 28 goals in his only full season with the Rockies. In Denver Rene was one of coach Don Cherry's favourite players, describing him as a "solid, hard nosed veteran."

"After I got Robert, and looked at some of the guys he had to work with, I'd feel sorry for the guy,” added Cherry. "He blocked shots, threw his weight around and fought. H even played though he had a broken thumb, a separated shoulder and a pulled groin! Considering our collection of players, I wouldn't have blamed Robert if he had just thrown in the towel, but he wouldn't quit."

Quit was the one thing Robert would never do. He never forgot how hard he had to work to make the NHL, and to work twice as hard to reach the dizzying heights that he achieved. As long as Robert laced up the skates, no one on the ice could out hustle him. Hard work and a little luck were Robert's trademarks.

Robert's career came full circle when a trade took him back to the Toronto Maple Leafs midway through the 1980-81 season. The Rockies traded Robert in exchange for a draft pick to end his "exile" in the Rocky Mountains. Robert finished out his NHL career by playing in 55 games with the Leafs in 1981-82, scoring 13 goals and 37 points.

Over his 12-year NHL career, Robert recorded eight 20-goal seasons and two 40-goal years. Rene was selected to the NHL’s Second All-Star Team in 1975 and he also played in the 1973 and 1975 All-Star Games. His career statistics include 284 goals, 418 assists and 702 points in 744 regular season games. He also added 22 goals and 41 points in 50 playoff contests.

Following his hockey career, Rene went on to work for Molson's and the NHLPA.

6 comments:

kathiet29 8:13 PM  

Happy 60th Birthday Rene!! You were always my favorite Buffalo Sabre (I cried when you were traded). Hope life is treating you well.

Anonymous,  2:15 PM  

My boyfriends dream is to meet you. You are his hockey hero. John is 50 now. He wrote a letter to you about being inthe NHL and you worot back to him. I would love it if he could meet you. The other two on the frnech Connection Line would top it up too. cbrown1964@aol.com. Ms Crown - Canada

Anonymous,  6:02 PM  

Bonjour René; j'ai appris quelques secondes après que tu as quitté le club house au Golf International 2000 qui tu étais. Misère que j'aurais aimé jaser de ton vécu dans la NHL. J'espère que tu vas revenir bientot, tu seras un invité a chaque fois. En attendant est-ce possible d'avoir une photo de toi signé A JERRY.. MERCI POUR TON ACCEUIL AU GOLF INT,L 2000 AU MOIS DE JUILLET 2010. MERCI
JERRY MESSIER DIRECTEUR ADJOINT

Anonymous,  5:51 AM  

rene say good bye to rick for me jim travers 910910-262-2894

lynn,  10:08 AM  

wow.... a face from the past!

Anonymous,  2:00 PM  

Hey Rene,
Been a long time Bud. Would love to get together for a beer.
Cheers
R. Ide
N.F.

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