It’s easy to be a little mad with current hockey at the moment. The shenanigans that have delayed the season while millionaires fight over how to split up more millions doesn’t really call for any sympathy. Without the season, the gesture of unveiling a statue of a bygone era seemed a little hollow. Then you stopped at remembered the era. The Sabres sold out for the entirety of the 1970s and Gilbert Perreault, Richard Martin, and Rene Robert can take a large part of the credit for that. I’m old enough to remember the first time the Sabres ever made the playoffs, with Robert scoring the winning goal in overtime to beat the Canadiens for the first ever win. If you are any kind of Buffalo hockey fan, I don’t need to tell you the significance of that.
My grandmother on my mom’s side was visiting then. She lived in football crazy Akron, Ohio. They televised high school football and she looked on the television and saw that we were all watching “ice hockey.” At the time, Dave Dryden was the Sabres’ number two netminder behind Roger Crozier. Mr Dryden worked with a number of community groups including the developmentally disabled kids at the College Learning Lab at Buff State. This group included my older brother as the kids learned the fun of floor hockey. This made Mr. Dryden alright with Grandma, despite the fact that the Canadiens employed Dave’s younger brother, Ken. The Canadiens also had brothers Frank and Peter Mahovolich on their roster. The Canadiens eventually won the series, but Grandma returned to Ohio thinking if you were Dryden, you were alright, but if you were Mahovolich, you were a bad man. In the midst of all this was just how much fun it was to watch the French Connection play.
It’s not every hockey line that changes the nature of street hockey games. I mean who didn’t want to be able to move like Perreault, shoot like Martin, playmake like Robert. Just the fact that the Aud seemed to buzz or hum a bit when they took the ice made you pay a little more attention.