Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Farewell, Rico

It was hard to believe it was true when I first heard the horrible news of Rick Martin's death. Although I wasn't born during the French Connection days, I'm a Buffalo native and have been a Sabres fan for essentially my entire life, so I knew how special that line was. Like most Sabres fans, we had an immense pride that the French Connection was apart of our team, and the memories and their legacy will live on forever.

During my internship for the World Juniors, I got to meet Rick and the rest of the French Connection and I took their picture for the blog I was writing. It was the only time I met Martin (or Perreault or Robert), but I know over the years many fans in the area got to know him quite well. It's one of the great things about Buffalo being such a tight-knit community. Fans have a chance to befriend their childhood sports idols and see a more human side to them later in life. I think that's pretty special.

7, 11, and 14

I was also one of the lucky 18,690 fams who got to witness Terry Pegula's introductory ceremony and what would be the last time Robert, Perreault, and Martin would take to the ice as the French Connection. It was a wonderful moment for Sabres fans everywhere, and it's very poignant that Terry Pegula, a life-long fan, was able to reunite them before Rick died and I know that we're all very thankful for that now.

A fan with his heroes.

Aside from losing a great person, another thing that hurts about Rick's death is the fact that the French Connection will never be whole again. What made them so special and magical is what they created when they were on the ice together, and only having the two-thirds of the French Connection just seems so wrong. It was obviously bound to happen at some point, as no one lives forever, but it was just too soon. It's hard to believe and it's tough to take.

As I was reading, listening, and watching everyone's reaction to Rick's death, it made me realize how treasured hockey is to Sabres fans the people of Buffalo. Rick's death affected so many fans, ranging from those who remembered watching him play, to those who are relatively new fans, to those who aren't even from Buffalo and have never lived here, and to those (like me) who simply weren't born during Rick's playing days. But it still affected everyone, because we all knew how special he was, whether we got to see him play or not. Everyone was still shocked, saddened, and upset. And while I don't welcome the terrible feelings I got when I learned that he died, they were painful reminders of how much I love the Sabres and what this team means to me. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

So long, Rico...legends never die.

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