Sabres Legend Rick Martin Passes Away

March 14, 2011 Updated Mar 14, 2011 at 2:06 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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March 14, 2011 Updated Mar 14, 2011 at 2:06 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY ( WKBW ) Buffalo Sabres legend Rick Martin died of a heart attack. That is the ruling from the Erie County Medical Examiners's office following a Monday autopsy.

The former Buffalo Sabre, and member of the legendary "French Connection," was then involved in a single car crash in the vehicle he was driving.

Police had suspected Martin suffered a medical emergency while driving on Main Street near Salt Road in Clarence Hollow early Sunday afternoon. According to New York State Police Captain Steven Nigrelli, Martin's car crossed into the opposite lane of traffic before hitting a utility pole at approximately 12:15pm Sunday.

Nigrelli told Eyewitness News that two eyewitnesses found Martin slumped over in his car wearing a seat belt with airbags deployed. His eyes were closed. They assisted Martin at the scene with CPR before he was taken by ambulance to Millard Fillmore Suburban hospital, where he later died.

Rick Martin's dog was in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Martin and his family reside in Akron, N.Y.

The New York State Police have issued the following release:

On March 13, 2011 at 12:14pm, New York State Police stationed in Clarence responded to a report of a motor vehicle accident on Main Street just west of Salt Road in the Town of Clarence. Upon arriving at the scene, Troopers located a 2011 Buick Lacrosse with front end damage on the south side of the roadway. The sole occupant of the vehicle was identified as Richard L. Martin, 59 year old Akron, New York resident and former Hall of Fame member of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team. Mr. Martin was still seated in the driver’s seat and unresponsive upon the Troopers arrival at the scene. Trooper Ronald Nero along with two citizens that had stopped to render aid, performed CPR on Mr. Martin until Emergency Medical Personnel arrived at the scene. Mr. Martin was transported to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 12:48pm.

The preliminary investigation based on physical evidence at the scene and eyewitness account reveals that Mr. Martin was traveling west bound on Main Street prior to drifting from lane, crossing the east bound lane and on to the south side shoulder of the roadway. Mr. Martin’s vehicle struck a utility pole and then a parking stanchion prior to coming to rest against a tree.

The cause of the accident is unknown at this time and is currently under investigation.

The Buffalo Sabres issued a release stating they are saddened to announce the passing of Buffalo Hall of Famer and member of the famed French Connection, Rick Martin.

Rick was not only one of the greatest players in franchise history, he was a great friend to the Sabres organization and the entire community.

The thoughts and prayers of the entire Sabres organization go out to his wife Mikey and their two sons, Corey and Josh.

Sabres alumni Danny Gare remembers Martin as "one of the greats" to ever play hockey. In an interview with Eyewitness News, he recalled how Martin helped him early on in his career, and that his thoughts and prayers are with Mikey and their children.

Martin ( #7 ) played with Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert to make up the famous "French Connection" in the 1970's.

The Buffalo Sabres website posted these statistics on Martin:

Rick Martin
Left Wing (1971-72 to 1980-81)
Regular Season Sabres Totals -
681 games played, 382 goals, 313 assists, 695 points
Playoff Sabres Totals -
62 games played, 24 goals, 29 assists, 53 points

Buffalo Sabre fans saw Rick Martin in almost 750 regular season and playoff games between 1971 and 1981. Number 7’s career with the Sabres was highlighted by a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1974-75. That spring, Martin finished with 52 goals, one of which was the 1,000th in team history. The year prior, on the final night of the 1973-74 campaign, he recorded a hat trick at “The Aud” against St. Louis to become the first player in Sabres’ history to record 50 or more goals in one season.

Martin even gave the hometown fans a reason to cheer in a game at “The Aud” in which he wasn’t even wearing a Sabres’ uniform. On Jan. 24, 1978, he scored the tying goal in the 31st NHL All-Star Game with just 1:39 left in regulation time to force overtime. That was just one of seven of the League’s showcase games he would appear in during his career. He still holds two single-season Sabres records and is tied for another. In addition, Martin remains in the top three in seven of Buffalo’s (regular season) career leaders categories.

Martin recently joined Gilbert and Rene on the ice with the new owner of the Sabres, Terry Pegula, just a few weeks ago. That on ice reunion to celebrate the new ownership would be Martin's last time on the ice, and his last public appearance with his former "French Connection" teammates.

WKBW.com has a link to the Sabres website in the "News Links" section.

Eyewitness Sports Director Jeff Russo with anchor /reporter Shawn Stepner will have the latest on Channel 7's Eyewitness News.

The WKBW Facebook page also has an area to type comments and thoughts on the passing of Rick Martin.