Rick Jeanneret, Hall of Fame Sabres broadcaster, dies at 81


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Rick Jeanneret, the Hall of Fame broadcaster and voice of the Buffalo Sabres for more than 51 years, died Thursday, the Sabres announced. He was 81.

“Rick died on Aug. 17, 2023 with his family by his side after a two-year battle with multi-organ failures. He will be loved forever,” the Jeanneret family said in a statement Thursday.

Jeanneret called Sabres games from 1971 until his retirement in 2022. His last call of the 2021-22 regular season was Buffalo’s final game, a home contest against the Chicago Blackhawks in late April 2022. Jeanneret served as the team’s emeritus broadcaster during the 2022-23 season.

“Growing up in Buffalo, Rick Jeanneret was not just the voice of the Sabres, but the voice for our city,” Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said. “He helped foster my love of hockey, along with so many others. Beyond the booth, Rick as an incredible man that was loved by all. His wit and humor was unmatched and we are all lucky to have known him.”

Jeanneret will be remembered as a member of the Sabres Hall of Fame, the Hockey Hall of Fame (as the recipient of the Foster Hewitt Award in 2012), the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Township of Terrace Bay, Ontario’s Sports Wall of Fame.

Jeanneret is famously known for his “May Day, May Day” call of former Sabres forward Brad May’s overtime goal that gave Buffalo a four-game sweep of the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs and ended the team’s 10-year playoff-win drought.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula said in a statement that Jeanneret’s impact on the franchise “extends far beyond the broadcast booth.”

“Rick was a very special and very loved man, to and by all, who knew him and listened to him, his magic and his command,” Pegula said. “How glad I am to have known him. How lucky were we all to have been around him and to have listened to him.”

Jeanneret remembered off the call

I could talk about the legendary calls, the way he marked Buffalo’s hockey history with enthusiastic cries and clever wordsmanship, but that’s not what came to mind when I first heard Jeanneret died.

I thought about October 2013 in Edmonton. I’d thrown out my back, borderline crippled, crying as I walked. The Oilers’ team doctor saw me between the first and second period and gave me a couple Tylenols. The Sabres’ off-ice folks were livid that a fellow couldn’t get more help so far from home. Heading back to Buffalo wasn’t that simple. I was stuck.

Jeanneret sounded the rally. I’ll never forget it. Never was able to thank him enough.

Equipment manager Rip Simonick and trainer Jim Pizzutelli snapped to attention, helping me get through the night. The next morning, rather than ride on the Sabres’ charter bus to Calgary, Jeanneret insisted on personally driving me three hours south down the Albert Highway because I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to return my rental car.

Anybody who has spent more than three minutes in Jeanneret’s presence can attest, he loved to bust chops. He relished putting people in their place, especially with others in earshot. He had four nicknames for me — all derogatory, all lovingly.

So what happened that frigid morning in Edmonton was a true sense of the man, beyond the theatrics and the grandiosity and the wisecracks. He walked a couple blocks to the nearby pharmacy to get the kind of over-the-counter pain medicine not available in the United States. He insisted — INSISTED — on carrying my bags. I crawled into the backseat.

And he drove. He took care of me. He made sure of it. — Graham

Further reading

(Photo: Bill Wippert / NHLI via Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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