Gilbert Perreault

For 17 glorious seasons, Gilbert Perreault was the Buffalo Sabres. As he went, so did the Sabres. An absolute magician with a hockey puck, Perreault ranks high on the NHL's all-time scoring list with 512 goals and 814 assists, for 1326 points in 1,191 games.

Perreault was the first draft choice in Buffalo Sabres history when selected first overall in the 1970 NHL draft. In 1971 he captured the Calder trophy as the NHL's rookie-of-the-year.

In the Sabres second year, the Perreault became the center of the famous "French Connection" line with Rick Martin and Rene Robert.

"Rick Martin joined the Sabres as their first round draft pick in the second year of the franchise. In the same year, Buffalo got Rene Robert in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. We clicked right away. I was there to make the plays, Rick was there to score the goals, and Rene did a little of both. All three of us were good skaters. Our style was comparable to the European style, frequently crisscrossing with a lot of speed" said Perreault, the slickest of the three.

Gilbert was one of the greatest one-on-one players ever. He had more tricks up his sleeve than the rest of his teammates combined.

"In my day, offensive players did a lot more skating and stickhandling, changing speed, dekeing two guys and making plays in the offensive zone. I loved the thrill of beating everyone on the ice, dekeing through the opposition. When I got the puck, I'd dare them to try to get it away from me. Its rare to see that today, save for a few players like Mark Messier or Jaromir Jagr," said Perreault, who grew up admiring great stickhandlers Jean Beliveau and Dickie Moore.

Perreault was often compared to Marcel Dionne and Guy Lafleur, as those three were the top offensive players out of Quebec in their day. Perreault never reached the scoring plateaus that those two did, but many considered him to be the most individually talented. And later on in his career he became aware defensively. Lafleur of course was in Montreal and won many Cups with a great team, so he got the nod as the best Quebecer in the NHL. Dionne was way out in the obscurity of Los Angeles, and never got the recognition he deserved, so Perreault was often considered to be ranked in the middle of that French Trio.

Perreault got off to a blistering start in his NHL career, a career he credited a lot of his success to coach/gm Punch Imlach.

"In my first seasons, Imlach told me to go for goals and not worry about checking. That really helped me get my confidence. The first few years I was there, it was loose. I was rushing the puck a lot. We had style." He (Punch Imlach) showed me video tapes of me in games to prove I was shifting one way too much. He got me to shoot faster; not to nurse the puck for careful aiming. He also wanted me to shoot more and to cut down on what he called 'walking in' on the goalie, something I developed on finding my slap shot wasn't hard enough."

Perreault won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1973 and was a two-time member of the NHL Second All-Star team in 1976 and 1977. The closest Perreault and the Buffalo Sabres franchise has ever come to a Stanley Cup championship was in 1975 when the Sabres were defeated in the finals by the Flyers in six games. Those Sabres teams were special, as the entire team was built around size and solid defensive positioning, plus the explosiveness of Perreault and his linemates. He is an oft-forgotten member of Team Canada 1972, as well as Canada Cup squads.

Perreault never won a Cup, but that was his sole focus. At one point he even considered being traded in order to get that chance at the Cup.

"After 8 or 9 years in Buffalo, I thought about asking for a trade. I wondered if a change would help my career. I was also curious to see how things were done elsewhere. Even the thought of going to the Canadiens crept into my head. I had grown up being a part of winning teams. I knew it would take a few years to get to that point with buffalo, but from 1974-79 we had an especially good chance. We had a lot of good years in Buffalo, but every hockey player wants to win the Stanley Cup. There was a change in Sabres management in 1979 that revived the team, and my thoughts of moving disappeared. In the end I was glad to finish with the Sabres.

Perreault retired as the all time leader for the Buffalo Sabres in every offensive category - 512 goals and 814 assists for 1,326 points in 1,191 regular season games.

Always humble, Perreault's career landed him the ultimate acknowledgement - enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"I didn't enjoy attention when I played but the Hall of Fame is different. It's the greatest honour a player can have."


Danny Gare

Danny Gare goes down in history as one of the greatest players in Buffalo Sabres history.

The 5'9" and 175 pound native of Nelson, British Columbia joined the Sabres in 1974 after being selected 29th overall in the entry draft. The feisty Garehad just come off of an incredilbe season with the WCJHL's Calgary Centennials with a 68 goal, 127 point and 238 PIM season in 65 games!

Many felt Danny was too small to play in the NHL, but he quickly dismissed that notion when he held his own in a tussle with the legendary Dave "The Hammer" Schultz in his first NHL exhibition game! Danny had a strong training camp and followed that up with a fine NHL season. After scoring 31 goals and 62 points during 78 freshman season games, Gare tallied seven goals and 13 points during the 1975 playoffs as he helped lead Buffalo to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Sabres eventually fell to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Cup Finals but it was a thrilling ride that Gare will never forget.

“The ’75 Finals against Philadelphia, they were the team that won the Cup the year before, and obviously they were a team that were very physical and very intimidating at times and that’s why they named them the Broad Street Bullies. It was very tough to win in Philadelphia. I don’t think we ever won a game there during our series but it went to six games. Bernie Parent was unbelievable. He was, I think, the real difference of the series. Obviously goaltending is always a big part in any Stanley Cup series.”

Gare blossomed in his second NHL season. Despite playing on what was widely regarded as a checking line with Don Luce and Craig Ramsey, Gare scored a hat trick in the final game of the season to give him a team leading 50 goals.

"I think one of the biggest memories I have is obviously being a young player in my second year here and playing on a checking line with Done Luce and Craig Ramsay. We were a checking line and we always played against the top lines."

Although Buffalo failed to duplicate their playoff success of a season earlier, Gare had his status as one of the NHL's top players cemented during the off-season. Danny was asked to represent Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup tournament. Gare played, albeit in only 1 game. Canada of course won the tournament on a famous goal by Darryl Sittler..

Back injuries limited Gare to only 35 games in 1976-77 but Danny returned to score 39 goals in 1977-78. He followed that up with a career-high 56 goals in 1979-80, a total good enough to tie him with Charlie Simmer and Blaine Stoughton for the lead in the entire National Hockey League!

Gare, a 5 year captain of the Sabres, had a 46-goal campaign in 1980-81 and again represented Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup. Danny was a regular member of this version of Team Canada, playing 7 games and notching 6 points. Unfortunately the Canadian team lost to the Soviet Red Army in the finals.

Like many players who participated in the Canada Cup that year, the combative Gare got off to a slow start in 1981-82. He played in 22 games with the Sabres in 1981-82 before a surprising trade saw him join the Detroit Red Wings midway through the season. Buffalo traded Gare, Jim Schoenfeld and Derek Smith - all three pretty were once pretty big pieces of their mix - in exchange for Mike Foligno, Dale McCourt and Brent Peterson.

Gare played 4 and 1/2 seasons in Detroit, but never came close to duplicating his success in Buffalo. The Wings were rebuilding in the early 1980s and Gare developed back problems which eventually would force him to retire. Nonetheless Danny is proud of his role in the rebirth of the Red Wings. He even handed the captaincy of the team to a young Steve Yzerman.

Before Gare did retire due to a bad back, he spent part of the 1986-87 campaign with the Edmonton Oilers, where he signed as a free agent. However he only played in 18 games before his back forced him out for good.

Gare retired with very respectable numbers - 354 goals, 331 assists and 685 points in 827 regular season games. In 64 playoffs contests, he had 25 goals and 46 points.


Pat Lafontaine

Outside of Gilbert Perreault, Pat Lafontaine might have been the singularly most exciting skater to ever wear a Buffalo Sabres uniform.

As an 18 year old, the St. Louis, Missouri born Lafontaine took his game north of the border to Perreault's old stomping grounds - the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Lafontaine tore up the league in his only season there, scoring an mind-numbing 104 goals, 130 assists and 234 points in 70 games! Only Mario Lemieux has ever posted better numbers. His spectacular play convinced the New York Islanders to draft him 3rd overall in the 1983 entry draft.

Lafontaine then turned his attention the United States national team and the Olympics in 1984 and then turned professional with the 4 time defending Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders.

Lafontaine was the next generation of Islanders greats. He was the guy expected to take the torch from Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier and company. He was the top player in the post-championship era on Long Island. He scored 40-plu goals four consecutive years in a row, including a 54 goal season in 1989-90. In total LaFontaine scored 287 goals as an Islander, but none bigger than the 1987 quadruple overtime playoff game against Washington.

But it wasn't until a 1991 trade to Buffalo in exchange for Pierre Turgeon that Lafontaine blossomed into one of the greatest players in the league. Finding a unique chemistry with Alexander Mogilny. Lafontaine erupted with 46 goals and 93 points in just 57 games in 1991-92. In his second season, 1992093, he challenged Mario Lemieux for the NHL scoring title when he tallied 53 goals and 148 points. Mogilny shared the league lead in goal scoring with an amazing 76!

Sabres fans, and hockey fans everywhere, were robbed of one of the most electrifying players in recent memory. First reconstructive knee surgery caused Lafontaine to miss much of the 1993-94 and half of the 1994-95 season. When he did return, he was honored as the Bill Masterton trophy winner for his dedication and perseverance to the game.

Lafontaine gradually found his old form during the 1995-96 season, scoring 40 goals and 91 points. But in 1996-97 tragedy struck again. Pat only played in 13 contests as he was sidelined with post-concussion syndrome. Lafontaine wanted to play despite not having clearance from the Sabres doctors. Lafontaine demanded to be traded to a team who had doctors that would clear him to play. On September 29, 1997 he was traded to the New York Rangers.

Lafontaine made his return, but was always one hit away from having to retire for his own good. After 67 games which saw Lafontaine score 23 goals and 62 points, Lafontaine collided with one of his old teammates, and suffered his 5th serious concussion.

Pat Lafontaine was a 5 time all star who scored 468 goals and 1013 points in 865 games. He was a two-time Olympian and played in three Canada/World Cups.


Rick Martin

Legendary GM Punch Imlach once called Richard Martin "the greatest natural goal scorer I've seen". Martin's slapshot was terrifying and struck fear in goalies everywhere.

His coach in Buffalo, Joe Crozier, once said: "Bobby Hull may shoot harder than Rick, but Rick gets his shot away quicker and he's always on target with it."

Former NHL player and coach Vic Stasiuk was also a big Rick Martin fan: "He's got a hair-trigger on his shot. It's uncanny how quick he shoots that puck. It just touches his stick and it's flying at the net. Few are really quick and none are quicker."

Rogatien Vachon, the veteran goalie added: " You make any mistake and he takes it. You let him see the slightest opening and he'll thread something through it." Another, Lyle Carter said: " Martin hit me with a shot and I thought it had gone through my skin and stuck in my ribs. He's got a hard, heavy shot and I felt it for a month. It can carry your glove right off your hand."

Richard Martin was born in Verdun,Que on July 26,1951. His grandparents were Swiss-French and Swiss-German. His mother was French, but his father was born in Scotland and was a proud Scotsman. When Rick first came to prominence around Montreal, they gave his name a French pronunciation, "Ree-SHAR Mar-TAHN," but he refused it, considering it pretentious, insisting on plain Rick Martin. But make no mistake, Rick was always proud of his half-French heritage. He went to French speaking schools and speaks it and English equally well.

Rick started playing hockey at the age of eight. "I knew I could make the majors some day when I was 13 and I was playing in both bantam and midget leagues at the same time and I was the top scorer in both. I was shooting, shooting, shooting every day. But I liked other sports, too. I was just as good at golf and might have played that professionally. I really wanted to be an engineer. I never thought about playing pro until I was 18. I went to Sir George William University (later renamed Concordia University) in Montreal a year, but dropped out after my freshman year. The financial opportunities in pro hockey were too god for me to pass up."

Rick played his junior hockey for Thetford Mines and the Montreal Jr. Canadiens. In his last season with the Jr. Canadiens in 1970-71 Rick scored a league leading 71 goals in only 60 games, breaking the old QMJHL record held by Brian Cullen (68). The year before Rick had played on the same line as Gilbert Perreault, showing great chemistry and perking interest in Buffalo early. They were quick to grab Martin 5th overall in the 1971 entry draft.

When Rick entered his first NHL training camp in September 1971 he was immediately teamed up with his old junior linemate Perreault.

"The only reason Punch (Imlach) teamed me with Gil is because Punch said I was the only one on the team at the time that could skate with him." Rick said. Rick scored an NHL record 44 goals as a rookie, breaking Perreault's old record from the year before.

The next season Rene Robert lined up beside the duo and the famed "French Connection" line was born. They went on to terrorize opponents for almost a decade.

"We were a nice blend. Gil was the guy who could set you up with the goals. Rene was a real good checker, who wasn't afraid to go into the corner to dig out the puck. And I guess I was the guy who was supposed to put the puck into the net. I was to be the big gun."

Rick certainly was the big gun of the Sabres, and the entire NHL for that matter. His scoring resumé is impressive: 44, 37, 52, 52, 49, 36, 28, 32 and 45 goals in consecutive season. All in all Rick scored 384 goals in 685 games which makes him one of the most productive goal scorers per game in NHL history. He was also a four time NHL All-Star on the left wing.

Don't mistake Martin as a one trick pony. His two way game was always overshadowed and over criticized.

"I worked on the defensive part of my game for quite some time. I thought by the time Punch left the team (78-79) I was playing good two-way hockey for the team. But my critics didn't see it that way. I guess that I was never supposed to be in the mold of a two-way hockey player according to them," Martin recalled.

Martin and his Buffalo Sabres never won the Stanley Cup, but Martin did get the chance to win the 1976 Canada Cup.

"My chance had finally come to play. I finally realized how much pressure there was playing for your country. Being part of a winning team is something I'll always remember," Rick said.

Unfortunately Rick had to retire when he was only 30. Had he been injury free then it's safe to say that he would have reached the 500 goal plateau.

On November 8, 1980 Rick injured his right knee in a collision with Washington Capitals' goalie Mike Palmateer. Rick's knee never was the same after that and he only played sparingly from then until March 10, 1981, when he was traded to Los Angeles. In LA he only played four games before retiring in December 1981.

In June 1982, Rick sued the Buffalo Sabres, contending that he received improper medical treatment for an injured knee that forced him to an early retirement. There were seven separate suits, including one against Scotty Bowman.

"My beef was never with the Knoxes (the Sabres owners). It was with Scotty, " Rick said.

Hockey fans who remembered "Rico" can't argue the fact that he was one of hockey's deadliest snipers of all time.


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