I'll try to articulate this the best way possible. Sorry, but when you decide to be a blogger, you don't exactly envision writing a obituary about one of the greatest players in Buffalo sports history. In case you guys don't know, I'm only 31-years old, so, obviously, I don't remember how Rico played. From hearing what people have said, he's the best pure scorer in Sabres history. That's a pretty high regard for a player on a franchise that had greats like Gilbert, LaFontaine and Mogilny.The guy was also very active in the community. He was always around doing charities and helping the Sabres alumni foundation.
Also, he loved his hockey team.
I assure you, guys like Martin weren't going to the Arena to get that free cheeseburger and a box seat. He was going there because he loved this hockey team. Whenever an athlete stays in Buffalo after his playing days, there's always a sense of adoption with the community. In a way, you feel kind of vindicated because a rich guy like Martin, could have lived anywhere else in the country. Instead, he decided to stick around here for the next 20 years. Right then and there, you knew he was a true Buffalonian.
When I heard the news that #7 had died, I was shocked just like everyone else. One of the first things I thought about was how great it was that Terry Pegula had bought the team when he did, because I don't think we would have seen the French Connection skate onto the ice one final time. It was kind of bitter sweet, because on one hand, I was happy for us to see him one last time and to have that memory so fresh in our heads. On the other hand, when you hear that Pegula had told those guys that "they are going to be here until they die," you of course, wish we could of had another 20 reunions. Actually, you kind of wish that Martin could have lived through this new era of the Sabres. It must of been so much fun to have an owner of a team idolize your line.
Another thing I thought about, was how this was going to affect the older fans. People in their 40's and up. When I was listening to "The Bulldog" and others call into WGR, you could tell how much Martin met to them. I started thinking about what it would be like if a Bills great from the 90's passed away. I think you can cut it right down the middle when it comes to the generations of Buffalo sports. The most popular era for both teams were the 70's for the Sabres and the 90's for the Bills. I grew up watching the Bills and had lived through the Super Bowl years. Those guys were my heroes. I lived vicariously through them. If we lost, I lost. If we won, I won. If they were pissed off, I was pissed off. It was an epic bond that I will never forget. Hell, forget girlfriends and wives, they were the first love of my life. The only time that I can think of that's equivalent to that era are the Sabres of the 70's. I'm sure there are some dads out there that know what I am talking about.
Lastly, you know, days like these make you think back to what it was like to be a kid. I'm sure all the fans in their mid-40's, flashed back to their childhood. Their memories raced back to The Aud, the fog, the "Connection" that the Sabres had with the city. When you're a kid, you just cheer for your teams. I mean we still do, but as a kid, their is an innocence that you have with your home team. They could do no wrong. If they lost, you were sad, but you would never get angry and sound like older fans do nowadays (Who, me?). You would just hope for a better result next time. You would be happy that you could stay up past your bedtime and watch another game in two or three days.
When someone like Richard "Rico" Martin dies, I think a small, tiny part of a fan's soul dies with him. And I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about the kid who grew up watching him play. As I've said, it's totally different to watch sports as a kid than it is as an adult. However, it's up to you to embrace and remember the good times. To flashback to what sports were like when you were a kid. We all get that gushy feeling whenever we think back to our youth and watching sports. Sometimes, I think people like me, lose that when we we get older. Days like today, make me flashback to those days as a kid. As a 31-year old, I don't have a sports hero who is playing today, but I do know that all of us at one point, idolized someone like Richard "Rico" Martin.
God speed to Richard Martin and his family...And long live our heroes, no matter how old you are...