Perreault Was The Face Of The Sabres From Day One
The Buffalo Sabres began play in the National Hockey League for the 1970-71 season. The Sabres were expansion cousins with the Vancouver Canucks, who entered the league the same year. At the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft, the Canucks had the second overall pick and the Sabres had the number one. Vancouver chose Dale Tallon and Buffalo chose Gilbert Perreault.
Often, draft picks seem like a sure thing but often don’t pan out. This was not the case with Perreault. Gilbert led the team with 38 goals in that first season for the franchise and won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.
Gil Perreault’s O-Pee-Chee rookie card from the 1970-71 series is a highly coveted prize of any vintage hockey cards collector. The hockey card is currently worth up to $100, according to Beckett.
After his second season in the NHL, Perreault was invited to be part of the Team Canada squad at the Summit Series versus the Soviet Union. The young Gilbert played in two games for Canada but eventually left the team after not getting played.
In his third year, 1972-73, Perreault won his second and last major NHL award. Gil sat only ten minutes in the sin bin that season over eighty regular season games. This gentlemanly play earned him the Lady Byng Trophy.
Twice during his career, Gilbert was in the hunt for the Art Ross Trophy as the leading point-getter in the league. In 1975-76, he came in third with 113 points and in 1979-80, he came in fourth with 106. He did appear in nine NHL all-star games and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.
Over his seventeen year NHL career that was spent entirely in Buffalo, Perreault became the all-time face of the Sabres. Only one Buffalo Sabres player has ever worn the number 11 and that is Gilbert Perreault. Gil wore the number from the team’s first game in the league and the number was retired when Perreault retired from the league.
Perreault’s Buffalo all-time regular season records for games played, goals, assists and points in a career are quite insurmountable in an era when players almost never play a whole career with one team. However, none of Buffalo’s single season records in those categories are owned by Gilbert.
Not quite as prestigious as the Hockey Hall of Fame, Perreault is honoured at the HSBC Arena’s own Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame. Much of the Sabres Hall surrounds Gilbert and the great Sabres teams of the 1970’s. Perreault, along with Rick Martin and Rene Robert, formed the famous French Connection line that almost took out the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1975 Stanley Cup finals.
Great teams have come to Buffalo since Gilbert’s departure. Few players have been as great.