Sabres hero Martin dies after heart attack while driving
By BRUCE GARRIOCH QMI Agency
Posted 17 hours ago
BUFFALO — His voice cracking, Mike Robitaille stood and talked about his former teammate, Richard Martin.It couldn't have been easy. Martin, who seemed so full of life, had died earlier Sunday after having a heart attack while driving his car near his home in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence. He was 59.
And Robitaille, Rob Ray, Larry Playfair, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and owner Terry Pegula tried to make some sense of the death. Often, deaths make no sense. And this was Richard Martin, who skated alongside Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert on the French Connection line — one of the best lines in NHL history.
Martin was an icon in Buffalo. And suddenly, he was gone. Ruff was emotional before standing behind the bench — with Martin's No. 7 hanging in the rafters of HSBC Arena.
"We lost a heckuva guy (Sunday)," said Ruff, a former teammate. "He was somebody I have been in the community with for 30 years.
"He was a teammate. He was somebody I worked with, somebody I played golf with. He was a great person. Anybody you talk to would say the same thing. We lost a real good person and it's a tough one to take."
The fans were in shock during a moment of silence before the puck was dropped against the Senators. Martin was a legend — a man who made an impact in Buffalo the way Jim Kelly did with the Bills.
Not only was Martin a star — scoring more than a point a game, with 701 points (twice netting 52 goals) in his NHL career, he was highly regarded, a man who settled in Buffalo and always was willing to lend a hand.
"Whatever he could do for the community, he would. At various times, he was involved with many charities," said Playfair. "This is such a shocker. I got call from his linemate (Robert) and, 'Wow!' It caught me off guard."
According to those who knew him, Martin had the ability to light up a room. He loved to talk and tell stories.
"He certainly made a lot of us laugh," said Robitaille, who played three seasons with Martin. "What are we doing being so emotional when what he stood for was having fun and making people laugh? We should have the biggest party in the world for (Martin). If he was (here), he'd have it for himself."
Robitaille will never forget Martin's knack for scoring and his tremendous shot."I found out how good he was playing against him. All I can remember was when he hit the blue line, he was going to find a way to put it in the net, one way or another. You couldn't control him," said Robitaille.
"Scoring meant everything to him. He just lived and died sticking the puck in the net. His eyes lit up when he had those opportunities. You don't see that out of every hockey player. When you see it, you sure notice it."
Ruff met Martin as a 19-year-old rookie.
"I was awestruck. For a young kid that came out of Western Canada, watched Hockey Night in Canada, and knew the French Connection, I felt out of place at training camp. The best comparison would be a peewee going to a midget team. I felt like I shouldn't be here, but they were tremendous players and even better people."
Pegula will never forget the night Perreault, Martin and Robert welcomed him to Buffalo.
"We had plans to get the French Connection involved and Rico was going to be part of that," said Pegula. "Now, we've got an empty chair."
And some empty hearts. Martin meant that much to others.