John Richard Jeanneret (born July 23, 1942) is a Canadian-born television and radio personality best known as the 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 with a single team 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.
John Richard Jeanneret
July 23, 1942
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
|Sports commentary career|
Jeanneret is a Canadian-American of Swiss descent. It is often incorrectly reported that Jeanneret was born in Switzerland; he was actually 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 Sabres season except for the team's first. This season was announced in its entirety on radio by Ted Darling, and for seven games on television by then-unknown Dave Hodge, who the next year left to become the host of Hockey Night in Canada.
Jeanneret 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, occasionally alternating with Martin Biron.
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 the worsening effects 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 Neale. 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 Neale) would only cover home games and 10 to 15 road games for the Sabres in the 2011-12 NHL season. This was 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 indicated he would take up an increased workload in 2012-13, although he would 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 were that Jeanneret would 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. Jeanneret called 47 games in 2014–15 and called 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.
In April 2018, Jeanneret said that he was leaning toward returning for the 2018-19 season, but he was not certain because of his age and possible health complications (in addition to the cancer battle, he also had a pacemaker installed).
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.
On December 22, 2018, during the third period in a home game against the Anaheim Ducks, Jeanneret suffered an acute medical emergency and abruptly cut out of the broadcast, leaving color commentator Rob Ray and on-site studio host Brian Duff to call play-by-play for the remainder of the game. Almost immediately, fans watching the broadcast or listening to the game took to the Sabres' Twitter page, expressing worry and concern for Jeanneret and asking for updates. Eyewitnesses noticed Jeanneret being escorted out of the arena on a stretcher. Buffalo News sports commentator Mike Harrington, who was at the game, tweeted about seeing the situation unfold, prompting hundreds of further tweets from fans at the Sabres' page. Jeanneret had shown no signs of illness immediately prior to the game. In an interview the next day, Jeanneret, who was still recovering in the hospital, noted that the emergency was not heart-related and that he had overheated prior to losing consciousness (something that he noted was unusual since the arena is usually cold, although Jeanneret had worn a Santa Claus suit for an extended portion of the evening); he did not miss any more of his scheduled play-by-play duties.
Jeanneret stated in April 2019, as the 2018-19 season wound down, that he was going to take much more time to decide whether he would return. He expressed major disappointment in the Sabres play that season, noting he had never seen a team collapse the way the Sabres had that year.
Jeanneret resides in Niagara Falls, Ontario with his wife, Sandra. He has two sons, Mark and Chris and a step daughter Shelly. 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. Shelly is a wedding, portrait and event photographer in Niagara Falls.
The Sabres ShowdownEdit
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 accoladesEdit
On June 6, 2012, the Sabres announced that Jeanneret would be inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
Jeanneret was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame on September 20, 2012.
The Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame inducted Jeanneret as an 'honorary inductee' on July 7, 2018, on the grounds of his calling blow-by-blow on in-game fights, which the Hall's committee considered the closest modern equivalent to bare-knuckle boxing.
- Mendola, Nick (October 2012). "Broadcaster, Fan, Hall of Famer: Rick Jeanneret Reflects". Buffalo Spree. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Pergament, Alan (October 5, 2014). ‘I feel like an American,’ Jeanneret says, as he gets cancer treatment here. The Buffalo News. Retrieved October 5, 2014. “Jeanneret received his first radiation and chemotherapy treatments July 23, which also happened to be his 72nd birthday.”
- "JEANNERET RECEIVES FOSTER HEWITT MEMORIAL AWARD". Sabres.com. NHL.com. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- "From May Day to La-la-la-la LaFontaine, Jeanneret is a Hall of Famer". CBC News. Archived from the original on November 11, 2011.
- Hoppe, Bill (November 12, 2012). Sabres' Jeanneret still going strong as Hall honor arrives. Olean Times Herald. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
- Hardy's Neale to join Rick Jeanneret. WGR 550. October 2, 2007.
- Snow, Kevin (June 27, 2012). "RJ WILL GO THE DISTANCE". Buffalo Sabres. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
- Reiman, Liz. Jeanneret out for Sabres game #2. WIVB-TV. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- Rick Jeanneret back in the broadcast booth. WGRZ. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
- Pergament, Alan (May 9, 2013). Jeanneret to return next season. The Buffalo News. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
- Pergament, Alan (August 6, 2013). Jeanneret to reduce schedule, Fairbanks confirms her schedule shift. The Buffalo News. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
- "Sabres' Rick Jeanneret to Return to Broadcast Booth After Beating Cancer". CBS Sports. November 14, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
- Pergament, Alan (April 4, 2018). "Jeanneret, Dunleavy weighing broadcasting futures with Sabres". The Buffalo News. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- Rick Jeanneret leaves Sabres broadcast unannounced. WGRZ-TV, retrieved December 22, 2018
- Harrington, Mike (December 22, 2018). Rick Jeanneret taken from arena during Sabres broadcast. The Buffalo News. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
- Mansfield, Aaron (August 11, 2012). Jeanneret considers Hall honor top-shelf. The Buffalo News. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
- "The Buffalo Broadcasters: Broadcasting Hall of Fame - 2012 Inductees". Retrieved October 13, 2012.
- "2018 Inductees Announced". Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 6, 2018.