In a somber turn of events, the hockey world mourns the loss of René Robert, a pivotal figure in the storied history of the Buffalo Sabres. The 72-year-old, a key player in the renowned “French Connection Line,” breathed his last on Tuesday at a hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida, succumbing to a heart attack that struck less than a week ago.
The Buffalo Sabres, in an official statement, confirmed the passing of Robert, who had been on life support since his hospitalization. The team acknowledged not just his on-ice prowess but also his enduring impact on the community. “René was a tremendous player, teammate, and person and truly loved this organization,” the statement read. “His accomplishments on the ice as a member of the French Connection speak for themselves, but his impact in the community continued long past his playing career.”
In 1972, the Sabres acquired Robert through a trade with Pittsburgh, sending Eddie Shack the other way. He then formed an indomitable trio alongside Rick Martin and Gilbert Perreault. This line, affectionately known as the “French Connection,” became a symbol of Buffalo’s hockey prowess, with a statue immortalizing their legacy standing proudly in a plaza outside the Sabres’ arena.
Sabres owner Terry Pegula, a devoted fan of the “French Connection Line” since his youth in Pennsylvania, expressed his deep sadness at the news. “During our time with the team, René has been one of the most active alumni, and we have grown to know him well over the past 10 years,” Pegula stated. “He was a friend to us and the entire organization and will be missed dearly.”
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The trio’s impact extended beyond the ice, with their numbers retired, names hanging in the arena rafters, and a bronze statue commemorating their contributions to the team. The loss of Robert marks another chapter closing in the history of the Sabres, following the passing of Rick Martin in 2011.
René Robert’s career was nothing short of spectacular, scoring a career-high 40 goals twice during his seven-plus seasons in Buffalo. His skill and dedication translated into 524 games with the Sabres, where he netted an impressive 222 goals and tallied 552 points. His playoff performances were equally remarkable, with 22 goals and 39 points in 47 postseason games, including memorable game-winners.
One of the defining moments of Robert’s career came in 1975 when he scored the overtime goal in the infamous “Fog Game,” sealing Buffalo’s 5-4 win over Philadelphia in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. The mist-shrouded match became part of hockey lore, despite the Flyers eventually clinching the series.
Even after retiring, Robert actively maintained strong ties to Buffalo by constructing his driveway from pieces of the Memorial Auditorium after its demolition in 2009. An avid golfer, he remained active in charitable functions in the city, endearing himself to both fans and the community.
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of adored Sabres alumnus Rene Robert.
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The entire Sabres organization and Western New York community are praying for the Robert family and cherishing the memories he created in Buffalo. 💙 pic.twitter.com/R8jFCvTot4
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 22, 2021
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René Robert’s impact on and off the ice will be remembered with reverence, and his legacy will forever be etched in the annals of Buffalo Sabres history. As the hockey community mourns the loss of this legendary figure, fans, and admirers pay their tribute to a Canadian hockey icon whose contributions transcended the game itself.