Rick Martin, 59; starred with hockey’s French Connection
BUFFALO — Two weeks after being reunited on the ice in Buffalo, the Sabres’ famed French Connection lost a member when Rick Martin died yesterday.
The 59-year-old was pronounced dead at a suburban Buffalo hospital at around 1 p.m., about a half-hour after the car he was driving crossed the center line on the road, rolled along the shoulder, and struck a utility pole before coming to rest against a tree, New York State Police Captain Steven Nigrelli said.
Nigrelli said witnesses spotted Mr. Martin driving with his head slumped and eyes closed before the crash, which occurred in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence. Nigrelli said it appeared that Mr. Martin had “an undetermined medical emergency’’ before the accident.
Two passers-by and a state trooper performed CPR on Mr. Martin, who remained unresponsive when removed from the vehicle. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.
Mr. Martin’s death came as a shock to the Sabres, who were preparing for an afternoon game against the
“We lost a heck of a guy today,’’ said Lindy Ruff, the Sabres’ coach and Mr. Martin’s former teammate. “It’s tough when you lose anybody, and we lost a real good person today.’’
Prior to the game, the Sabres honored Mr. Martin with a tribute on the center ice video scoreboard.
Mr. Martin was selected fifth overall by the Sabres in the 1971 draft, and he immediately made an impact for the team the following season when he scored what was then an NHL rookie record 44 goals. From LaSalle, Quebec, Richard (Rick) Lionel Martin played left wing on a line centered by Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert. They were dubbed The French Connection.
The trio is still revered in Buffalo, and at
Mr. Martin’s death comes a little more than two weeks after the trio took the ice together for what turned out to be the last time, before the Sabres’ home game against Atlanta. They were taking part in a welcoming ceremony, greeting Pennsylvania billionaire Terry Pegula a day after he purchased the franchise.
Mr. Martin, who eventually settled his family in western New York, spent 10-plus seasons with Buffalo before his career was cut short by a severe knee injury during a game against Washington in November 1980.
He was traded to Los Angeles during the 1980-81 season and played only four games for the Kings through the following season.
Mr. Martin had 384 goals and 317 assists for 701 points in 685 career NHL games. He added 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points in 63 career playoff games.
He was a five-time 40-goal scorer, and had back-to-back 52-goal seasons (1973-74 and 1974-75). His most productive campaign was in 1974-75, when he had a career-high 95 points (52 goals, 43 assists) in 68 games.
Mr. Martin has more career goals than any Sabres left winger and ranks second overall in team history. He ranks second with 47 game-winning goals, and his 695 points rank third. Mr. Martin also holds the Sabres’ record with 21 three-goal games.
Mr. Martin was remembered for his fun-loving personality off the ice and for his intensity on it.
Mr. Martin leaves his wife, Mikey, and their sons Corey and Josh.