Rick Jeanneret, the voice of the Buffalo Sabres for nearly all of the franchise’s history, died on Thursday at the age of 81. Jeanneret began broadcasting Sabres games on the radio in 1971, later moved to television after Ted Darling’s retirement, did radio/television simulcasts until his retirement at the end of the 2021-22 season, and was the recipient of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Award in 2012 for broadcasting and Sabres Hall of Fame.
“Rick was indeed a very special and very loved man, to and by all, who knew him and listened to him, his magic, and his command,” Sabres owner Terry Pegula said in a press release. “How glad I am to have known him. How lucky were we all to have been around him and to have listened to him. Rick Jeanneret’s mark on Sabres history extends far beyond the broadcast booth and we will miss him dearly. I extend my deepest condolences to Sandra, Rick’s family, friends, and all that were loved by him.”
Jeanneret battled throat cancer in 2014 and had to cut down his workload in the last few years of his career due to various ailments, and ultimately succumbed to multi-organ failures, according to a statement from his family.
“Growing up in Buffalo, Rick Jeanneret was not just the voice of the Sabres, but the voice for our city,” Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said. “He helped foster my love of hockey, along with so many others. Beyond the booth, Rick was an incredible man that was loved by all. His wit and humor was unmatched and we are all lucky to have known him.”
Jeanneret was an original, known for his exciting and emotional play-by-play, as well as his signature goal calls such as “May Day”, celebrating Brad May’s 1993 overtime goal, Pat Lafontaine’s “La-la-la-la Fontaine”, “Top shelf, where mama hides the cookies” and “these guys are good…..scary good”, but what made him special was his ability to make even the most pedestrian broadcast in the middle of January interesting. The St. Catharines, ON native rode the same waves of emotion that fans did during every broadcast, got amped up when there was a fight between Buffalo enforcer Rob Ray and Toronto’s Tie Domi, and reflected the dejection when the club lost, which is what made him so popular and special to fans in Western New York and Southern Ontario over his 51-year career, the longest play-by-play career in NHL history.