During an NHL career that extended to a dozen seasons, Rene Robert was an important offensive weapon. The right wing on the French Connection Line with Gilbert Perreault and Richard Martin, Robert reached the 20-goal mark eight straight years between 1972-73 and 1979-80. Possessing blinding speed and a lethal shot, Robert was a fine complement to the slick playmaking of Gilbert Perreault.
The native of Trois Rivieres, Quebec, was originally the property of the Toronto Maple Leafs. After playing junior with the hometown Reds of the Quebec junior league, Robert was signed by Toronto and then spent most of his first three professional seasons in the minors. In an odd turn of events, he was first claimed by the Buffalo Sabres at the June 1971 Inter-League Draft, then left unprotected and picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He received his first extensive NHL action in Steeltown. Forty-nine games into the season, he was traded to Buffalo for popular forward Eddie Shack. Knowing he was replacing a solid NHL veteran, Robert became energized with his new club. His nine goals in the last 12 games of the regular season served as a precursor of what was to follow.
In 1972-73 Robert and his linemates helped the Sabres reach the post season in only their third NHL year. The flashy right wing scored 40 goals and became one of the team's most recognizable stars. Two years later he reached the 40-goal mark again and recorded a career-best 100 points. Robert established himself as one of the league's most accomplished point men on the power-play and often excelled on the second line penalty killing unit.
In 1975 the high-flying right wing contributed 13 points in 16 playoff games as the Sabres drove all the way to a Stanley Cup final showdown with the defending champion Philadelphia Flyers. Robert provided the overtime heroics in the pivotal fifth game of the semi-finals against the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs never recovered and dropped the sixth game on home ice. In the fourth game of the finals, Robert scored one of the most famous overtime goals in history. On the winning play he blew a shot past All-Star netminder Bernie Parent, who was unable to judge the movement of the puck because Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium ice was shrouded in a thick layer of fog. The Sabres lost the series after six hard fought games. Following the season, Robert was voted to the NHL's Second All-Star Team.
Robert played another four years in Buffalo before he was traded to the lowly Colorado Rockies for offensive defenseman John Van Boxmeer. When informed of the trade, Robert was stunned and pondered retirement. Coach Don Cherry convinced him that he would bring in a few players and instill a winning attitude on the club. He looked to Robert to be one of the pillars in the rebuilding process.
When Cherry was fired halfway through the 1980-81 season, Robert was one of the most vocal dissenters.
The veteran winger returned to the Leafs but retired after his release by Toronto. The knock against Robert had always been that he was moody and difficult to handle at times. Some even suggested he rode on the coattails of Perreault and Martin. Robert's quick adjustment to new teams and situations during his career dispelled this opinion. After retiring, he became the president of the NHL Alumni Association.