Rick Jeanneret’s voice is imitated by fans of all ages throughout Buffalo and beyond. His exuberant style of game calling has poured energy into the heart of Sabres nation for more than four decades and he’s a large part of not only the NHL team, but the entire city.
Jeanneret, now 70, first landed behind the microphone 50 years ago, though it wasn’t by design. One night in 1963, he took over the play-by-play duties for a Niagara Falls Flyers Junior A game because the regular announcer was ill. Jeanneret was in his seat when someone asked him if he knew anything about calling a game. Though already in the broadcast business, Jeanneret had never done any play-by-play hockey prior to that night. “I did the game and next thing I knew I was doing all of them,” he says.
Jeanneret’s tenure with Buffalo began in 1971. Over his 40 plus years with the team, he has provided fans with numerous memorable calls and has been there for the best periods in Sabres history: the ‘French Connection’ era; the days of Pat LaFontaine; the “May Day” goal, when unlikely hero Brad May scored the overtime-winner to give the Sabres a sweep over the Boston Bruins in 1993; Jason Pominville’s shorthanded goal in 2006 to defeat Ottawa in the playoffs; and the 2006-200 Presidents’ Trophy season.
Buffalo fans have grown accustomed to watching Sabres games with Jeanneret’s call. When he isn’t on the television broadcast, many fans mute the TV, turn on the radio and sync his voice to the action. “The fans have let me know how they feel and it’s very heart-warming,” he says. “I’ve had a wonderful relationship with them over the years. I absolutely love Buffalo’s fans.”
Jeanneret has received several honors for his broadcasting. In the past two years alone he’s been inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame, Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, Hockey Hall of Fame and Buffalo Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. He also won The Foster Hewitt Memorial Award (awarded by the Hockey Hall of Fame to members of the radio and television industry who make outstanding contributions to their profession and the game of hockey during their broadcasting career).
“When I was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Association, I felt that I was inducted by my peers,” he says. “When I was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, I very much felt that I was being inducted by the fans.”
Of course, there is one important piece missing to Jeanneret’s resume; the call of the Sabres winning a championship.
“I’m hoping that before I leave, I can get ahold of that Stanley Cup,” Jeanneret said during his induction speech for the Buffalo Broadcaster’s Association Hall of Fame. “I would truly love to have that happen.”
“That would be the culmination of 40-some-odd years in this business.”
Jeanneret has already called more than 3,000 Sabres games and acknowledges his broadcasting career is closer to the end than the beginning. His retirement has been rumored for the past couple of seasons, but he has agreed to come back each time.
“I’m not going to go on forever,” he says. “Wherever I’ll be when I’m done, I know I can sit back and think upon those good times.”
This story was originally published in The Hockey News