BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - Ten days before a statue honoring the French Connection makes its debut on Alumni Plaza by First Niagara Center, the two surviving members of the famed Buffalo Sabres line remain in awe.
"It's like the cherry on the sundae," said Gilbert Perreault, the line's center and arguably the best Sabre player ever.
Alumni Plaza is the latest homage to the team - past and present - that owner Terry Pegula has brought to the Sabres since buying the NHL franchise in February 2011.
A statue honoring Perreault and his linemates, Rene Robert and the late Rick Martin, will be unveiled on Oct. 12. It comes from an action photo of the trio playing against the Montreal Canadiens in April 1973.
Besides the statue, pillars in the plaza have been bricked over and plaques honoring all 401 Sabres players will also debut that night.
"This has been a long time in coming," Robert said. "Whether someone played one game or 1,000 games, they are being immortalized here."
Sabres fans can buy their own plaques, at $100 each, through the team's website and its recently created "291 Club," which stands for the total number of points the French Connection scored in the 1974-75 season - their best as a trio.
Robert said he has been taken aback by the way Pegula has embraced the Sabres players.
The statue puts the French Connection in the same class as a Michael Jordan, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky - each of whom have had statues erected in their honor in front of arenas in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Edmonton respectively.
"I don't know how much bigger it gets than that," Robert said. "If there is anything bigger, I don't know what it is."
The statue goes beyond the trio, Perreault said.
To him, it represents Sabre history and people like the Knox brothers or Punch Imlach, the team's first general manager and coach.
"I see a lot people in that statue," Perreault said. "A lot more than me, Rico or Rene."