BUFFALO, N.Y. (October 10, 2012) --- The Buffalo Sabres will formally unveil a statue honoring the team’s renowned French Connection, one of hockey’s all-time greatest forward lines, in a public ceremony outside First Niagara Center on Friday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. This date was chosen because the French Connection first played together on one line in October 1972.
The bronze statue depicts all three members of the French Connection – comprised of center Gilbert Perreault, left winger Rick Martin and right winger Rene Robert –and will serve as the anchor of Buffalo Sabres Alumni Plaza, a tribute to all former players of the team. The plaza, which is presented by Tops Friendly Markets, sits directly outside First Niagara Center along Perry Street and will be a lasting acknowledgement of the 400-plus players who have donned the Blue and Gold as a member of the Sabres throughout the team’s 42-year history.
Perreault, Robert, and family members of the late Martin will be attending Friday’s ceremony along with over 30 Sabres alumni and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula. Also in attendance will be Jerry McKenna, the award-winning sculptor of the statue, Ron Moscati, the former team photographer whose photograph served as inspiration for the statue. Longtime Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret will serve as the master of ceremonies for the evening’s events.
Along with the statue, the plaza features five brick columns that are covered in plaques bearing the names of all 401 Sabres alumni. Each column represents a decade of Sabres history and they all support a pedestrian walkway, which features a pictorial display of players throughout the franchise’s history. In addition to the player plaques, fans were given the opportunity to purchase custom plaques that are mounted alongside the player plaques throughout the plaza.
About the statue:
Inspiration for the statue came from a photograph taken during a playoff game in April 1975 that features all three members of the French Connection. The photograph, which was taken by Ron Moscati, is considered extremely rare because so few pictures exist with all three players in the same shot during play. The photo is also significant in that all three players scored a goal in that game, which secured a playoff win against the Montreal Canadiens.
A specially-designed pedestal, constructed by HHL Architects of Buffalo, features an integrated lighting system and an illuminated informational panel that provides a base for the statue.
To design and construct the statue, the Sabres commissioned American sculptor Jerry McKenna. McKenna, who is based out of Boerne, Texas, is a distinguished sculptor who is well known for his sports statues. He was named the 2003 ‘Sports Sculptor of the Year’ by the All-American Football Foundation in recognition of his 17 portrait busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his sculpture of legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne at the College Football Hall of Fame and countless others throughout the country. McKenna is a decorated Air Force veteran and received early recognition from his bronze portraits of famous Air Force leaders such as Generals Billy Mitchell, Ira C. Eaker, and Jimmy Doolittle. His work can be found in museums, parks, churches, public buildings, universities, halls of fame, and private collections around the world.
About the French Connection:
The combination of Hall-of-Fame center Gilbert Perreault, left wing Rick Martin and right wing Rene Robert is widely considered to be one of the greatest forward lines in NHL history and remains as the Sabres’ most celebrated offensive unit in team history. The trio, all of whom were French-Canadian, was dubbed ‘The French Connection’ –after the 1971 film of the same name – and played together in the Blue and Gold from 1972-1979. During that span, the Sabres went to the playoffs six times, including the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals, and the three were honored with a combined 18 NHL All-Star Game appearances. All three are members of the Sabres Hall of Fame and have had their numbers officially retired from use by the team. Perreault, winner of the 1971 Calder Trophy and the 1973 Lady Byng Trophy, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.