The Legacy of Rick Jeanneret: A Voice that Will Forever Echo in Hockey

Rick Jeanneret, the iconic voice behind the Buffalo Sabres for over five decades, left an indelible mark on the world of hockey. On Thursday, the 81-year-old broadcasting legend passed away, leaving fans, players, and colleagues mourning the loss of a true great. Jeanneret’s family released a statement expressing their profound grief, revealing that he had succumbed to multi-organ failure after a valiant two-year battle. However, while we mourn his passing, we must also celebrate the remarkable legacy he leaves behind.

Affectionately known as “RJ,” Rick Jeanneret has been an integral part of Sabres broadcasts since the 1971-72 season. In fact, his remarkable tenure makes him the longest-serving play-by-play announcer in NHL history. Jeanneret’s passion for the game and his unique ability to captivate audiences have made him a household name not just in Buffalo but among hockey fans worldwide. Every goal was met with his distinctive flair, such as his famous catchphrase, “Top shelf, where mama hides the cookies,” which became synonymous with Sabres hockey.

Throughout his illustrious career, Jeanneret crafted countless unforgettable calls that have become ingrained in the memories of hockey fans everywhere. Perhaps one of his most memorable moments came during the 1993 playoffs when Brad May scored the series-clinching goal in an overtime win against the Boston Bruins. Jeanneret’s enthusiastic cry of “May Day! May Day!” perfectly captured the sheer excitement of the moment and the significance of Buffalo’s first playoff series win in a decade. Other memorable calls like “La-la-la-la-Fontaine!” after Pat LaFontaine’s goals and “Now do you believe?” during the Sabres’ 2006 playoff run exemplify Jeanneret’s ability to elevate the game beyond mere play-by-play commentary.

Beyond his broadcasting talents, Rick Jeanneret was cherished for his infectious wit and unmatched sense of humor. Players, colleagues, and fans alike were always guaranteed a laugh during interactions with the beloved announcer. As Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams aptly stated, “Rick was an incredible man that was loved by all. His wit and humor were unmatched, and we are all lucky to have known him.” Jeanneret’s humorous banter not only added entertainment value to the game but also fostered a strong bond with the hockey community.

Honoring a Legend

Throughout his retirement, Jeanneret’s love for the game remained steadfast. He continued attending Sabres games, making the journey from his home in nearby Niagara Falls, Ontario, to support the team he held dear. In recognition of his inimitable contributions, the Sabres raised a banner in honor of Jeanneret, joining an exclusive group of only 11 individuals to receive such recognition from the team.

A Lasting Legacy

Rick Jeanneret’s impact on the sport extended far beyond his play-by-play work. His infectious enthusiasm and genuine love for the game inspired generations of fans and players alike. Sabres owner Terry Pegula fondly reflects on Jeanneret’s impact, stating, “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.” Pegula’s own connection to the Sabres was initially forged through listening to Jeanneret’s broadcasts, highlighting the profound influence the announcer had on the entire organization.

During the tribute ceremony held in Jeanneret’s honor in his final season, emotions ran high as fans showered him with chants of “RJ! RJ! RJ!” Despite the overwhelming sentiment, Jeanneret remained composed, delivering a heartfelt speech. He expressed his profound gratitude for the opportunity to be the voice of the Sabres, a role he cherished his entire life. His commitment to the team and its fans was unwavering, setting a standard of passion that will forever be remembered as part of his incredible legacy.

Rick Jeanneret’s passing leaves a significant void in the hockey world. His iconic voice, infectious energy, and unparalleled devotion to the game will be sorely missed. As the hockey community mourns his loss, we must also celebrate his remarkable career, which will forever be etched in the annals of the sport’s history. Jeanneret’s legacy serves as a reminder of the power of a single voice to inspire and unite a passionate fan base. While he may be gone, his spirit lives on in the memories and recordings of his unforgettable calls. Rick Jeanneret, a true broadcasting legend, will always be remembered as an integral part of the rich tapestry that is hockey.

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