Rick Martin (AP Photo)
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Rick Martin, a member of the Buffalo Sabres' famed French Connection line in the 1970s, died after being involved in a one-car accident on Sunday. He was 59.
The team announced Martin's death in a statement before Sunday's game against the Ottawa Senators. New York State Police said Martin died in a one-car crash earlier in the day in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence.
Police said an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.
"Rick was not only one of the greatest players in franchise history, he was a great friend to the Sabres organization and entire community," read a statement released by the Sabres. "The thoughts and prayers of the entire Sabres organization go out to his wife, Mikey, and their two sons, Corey and Josh."
The Sabres were planning to hold a video tribute to Martin prior to the game.
Martin was selected fifth overall by the Sabres in the 1971 draft, and immediately made an impa ct on the team the following season when he scored what was then an NHL rookie record 44 goals. From LaSalle, Quebec, Richard (Rick) Lionel Martin played left wing on a line centered by Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert, which was eventually dubbed The French Connection.
He spent 10-plus seasons with Buffalo before his career was cut short by a severe knee injury during a game against Washington in November 1980.
He was traded to Los Angeles during the 1980-81 season, and only played four games for the Kings through the following season.
Martin finished with 384 goals and 317 assists for 701 points in 685 career NHL games. He added 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points in 63 career playoff games.
He was a five-time 40-goal-scorer, and twice surpassed the 50-goal plateau, when he had 52 in each of the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons. Martin's most productive campaign was in 1974-75, when he had a career-high 95 points (52 goals, 43 assists) in 68 games.
Martin's 382 goals are most by a Sabres' left wing, and rank second on the team list. He also ranks second on the team with 47 game-winning goals, while his 695 points rank third. Martin also holds the Sabres record with 21 three-goal games.
The French Connection is recognized at the Sabres' arena with separate banners honoring all three players hanging together from the ceiling.
The line was most recently reunited last month, when the three attended a news conference announcing Pennsylvania billionaire Terry Pegula's official purchase of the team. They were invited to attend at the request of Pegula, a longtime Sabres fan.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
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