John Richard "Rick" Jeanneret (born July 23, 1942) is the television and radio play-by-play announcer for the National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres and its broadcast network, the Sabres Hockey Network. Having started with the team on radio during the team's second season in 1971–72, he is the longest-tenured play-by-play announcer in NHL history. He moved to television during the 1995–96 season and began doubling both television and radio play-by-play duties during the 1997–98 season. He is known as "RJ" within the Sabres organization and by close associates.
Jeanneret is a Canadian-American of Swiss descent. It is misunderstood that Jeanneret was born in Switzerland. He is actually a native of Canada, born in St. Catharines, Ontario and raised in Terrace Bay, Ontario. He is known for his energetic delivery (especially during big plays and fights), colorful player nicknames, passionate goal calls, and his trademark suspenders worn on air and uncanny resemblance to late comedian Rodney Dangerfield.
Jeanneret has announced every season of the Sabres' history except one; the inaugural season was announced in its entirety on radio by Ted Darling and for seven games on television by a then unknown 25-year-old Canadian broadcaster named Dave Hodge, who the next year left to become the host of Hockey Night in Canada.
He worked alongside Jim Lorentz for over 20 years before Lorentz retired. Harry Neale, former color commentator for the Toronto Maple Leafs regional broadcasts and was a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada until the end of the 2006–07 season, was Jeanneret's partner through the 2011-12 season. Former Sabres enforcer Rob Ray is Jeanneret's current partner for the MSG Network and WGR.
|Born||July 23, 1942 (age 74)|
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
|Sports commentary career|
Jeanneret is a graduate of the Midwest Broadcasting School, a Chicago-based institution that Jeanneret described as a "crash course" in broadcasting.
In 1963, Jeanneret took over the play-by-play of a Niagara Falls Flyers Junior A hockey game for the regular announcer, Edd Felstead, who had become sick. Jeanneret became the color analyst the following season before assuming full-time play by play radio duties in 1965. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Rick did several radio advertisements for local Niagara Falls hardware store Buildall. Jeanneret also called Buffalo Bisons (AHL) road games in 1969-70.
From 1984 until 1992, he did the Sabres' play-by-play in addition to being a popular early-morning disc jockey at the now-defunct CJRN-AM in Niagara Falls, Ontario. In 1992, he chose to retire from CJRN and concentrate solely on the Sabres. "I had enough of two jobs. I finished the game, came home and had to be up by 4 a.m.," he said.
Jeanneret helped close the Aud on the final night of the regular season in 1996 with an emotional tribute to his colleague Ted Darling, who was the voice of the Sabres from 1970 until worsening from Pick's Disease forced him to retire in the midst of the 1991–92 season. "I wish that standing next to me right now would be Ted Darling," said Jeanneret from the ice surface in a postgame ceremony. "See you in September, one block in that direction," said Jeanneret, pointing toward the new arena, then dubbed the Crossroads Arena and now called KeyBank Center.
In 2005, Jeanneret and the Sabres released a CD that collected some of his most memorable calls. Proceeds from the CD, which was titled Roll the Highlight Film, went to charity. It was followed up in 2006 with Top Shelf (named after his signature call, "Top Shelf, where momma hides the cookies!"), a similarly themed DVD.
Due to increasing age and health concerns, Jeanneret's retirement has been long rumored and speculated. Each year since the 2004–05 NHL lockout, however, Jeanneret has effectively agreed to "one more year." Jeanneret's contract was extended in 2007 through the 2008–09 NHL season. It was further extended in 2008 through the 2009–10 season. He was back for the 2010–11 season along with Galley. During these seasons, Jeanneret did not broadcast games while the Sabres had west coast road trips and a home game against the Boston Bruins. This most recently was from December 27, 2010 through January 8, 2011. He was also off when the Sabres played the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa on January 25, 2011. During Jeanneret's vacation, his son Mark and Kevin Sylvester filled in on play-by-play from December 27, 2010 through January 8, 2011. The idea for Jeanneret to take time off during west coast road games during these seasons was that of former managing partner Larry Quinn.
On May 26, 2011, the Sabres announced that Jeanneret (and Galley) would only cover home games and 10 to 15 road games for the Sabres in the 2011-12 NHL season. The road games will be determined once the 2011-2012 schedule will be released. This is in preparation for Jeanneret's pending retirement, in which Jeanneret stated that he almost retired after the 2010–11 season, but sought the reduced schedule instead.Studio host Kevin Sylvester was tabbed to call those road games, along with Danny Gare. Jeanneret has indicated he will take up an increased workload in 2012-13, although he will stop short of a full-time broadcast.
On June 27, 2012, Jeanneret announced that he would return to the broadcast booth full-time during the 2012-13 season, this time with Rob Ray serving as color commentator in addition to the bench reporter role Ray had served in for previous seasons. Jeanneret indicated it would be his last full season with the team, and the decision may have been influenced by the labor dispute that shortened the length of the season. Furthermore, Jeanneret missed the first four games of the season due to illness; he ended up calling 44 games for the Sabres in the shortened 2013 season. Jeanneret confirmed he would return for the 2013-14 season (he had signed a two-year contract the previous year) but did not make a solid commitment to how many games he would call in that season. Most indications are that Jeanneret will call 55 to 65 games for the 2013-14 season.
Jeanneret announced his intent to slowly phase out of the Sabres play-by-play job over the course of three years. Dan Dunleavy has already been chosen as Jeanneret's successor and will take over play-by-play duties, first as the substitute, then permanently in 2016. Jeanneret called 47 games in 2014–15 and will call 41 games in 2015–16; as of 2014, he still intended on retiring in 2016 but did not entirely rule out changing his mind. Indeed, Jeanneret would sign an agreement to call another half-season of games in 2016–17.
On July 1, 2014, Jeanneret was diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer, which required Jeanneret to miss part of the 2014-15 NHL season. Although he initially sought treatment in his native Canada due to Canada's universal single-payer health care system, he later sought American treatment (coincidentally, from the same doctor that also treated Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly) due to his stronger personal attachment with the United States after four decades of work in the country. On November 7, 2014 Jeanneret announced that following a CAT scan he was clear of cancer. He returned to broadcasting Sabres games eight days later on Saturday, November 15, calling the first period of the game against the Maple Leafs.
Jeanneret appeared in a commercial for Molson Canadian, giving a call for a pick-up pond hockey game.
Jeanneret is the play-by-play announcer for ICE's Super Chexx arcade machines.
Jeanneret, a high school dropout, resides in Niagara Falls, Ontario with his wife, Sandra. He has two sons, Mark and Chris. His son Mark Jeanneret is the Events Coordinator for the Erie Sports Commission in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he used to be the play-by-play announcer for the Erie Otters of the OHL and was a substitute for Rick with the Buffalo Sabres on December 27 and 28, 2010 on games against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. Chris teaches Radio Broadcasting at Niagara College in Welland, Ontario.
The Sabres Showdown
On April 9, 2001, as part of a promotion on radio station WNSA (at the time the Sabres' flagship station), Jeanneret called a fictional game known as the "Sabres Showdown." The fictional matchup was simulated on the NHL 2001 video game, and was said to be a matchup between the 1974–75 Buffalo Sabres and the 1998–99 Sabres, both of whom had been to the Stanley Cup finals. The game was said to have taken place at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, classic Sabres audio clips were played during intermission, and WNSA purposely held out any regular game staff from the commentary who had actually played on the 1974–75 team so as to make it seem as if they were actually playing the game. (For instance, color commentator Jim Lorentz was replaced by Mike Robitaille, who played for the Sabres in 1974–75 but had been traded before the playoffs, and WNSA hosts filled in other positions.) The 1975 team won the game thanks to Gilbert Perreault's game winning shootout goal.
In all actuality, many of the members of the 1974–75 squad are still together, working for the Sabres organization and playing occasionally for the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Hockey Team.
Awards and accolades
Jeanneret, along with former Sabre Dale Hawerchuk were inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame on November 8, 2011.
On June 6, 2012, the Sabres announced that Jeanneret would be inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
On June 8, 2012, the Sabres announced that Jeanneret would be given the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award and thus be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was inducted on November 12, 2012.
Jeanneret was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame on September 20, 2012.