The Buffalo Sabres, the NHL and the sports world mourned together late Thursday night and into Friday after the news of the death of broadcaster Rick Jeanneret at age 81.
Rick Jeanneret, the legendary play-by-play voice of the Buffalo Sabres who became one of the franchise’s biggest icons over his 51-year career behind the microphone, died Thursday night, the Sabres announced.
Fellow Rafters Club member Pat LaFontaine, speaking through his Companions in Courage Foundation feed on X – formerly Twitter – sent out a picture of him with Jeanneret at his 2006 jersey retirement, and the message read, “Goodbye to my dear RJ. I’ll miss those hilarious private calls and cherish the public memories. We will be inextricably linked forever, and I’m so proud to have been your friend. I just hope you’re now way above where ‘mama hides the cookies.’ – LaLaLa.”
Goodbye to my dear, RJ. I’ll miss those hilarious private calls and cherish the public memories. We will be inextricably linked forever, and I’m so proud to have been your friend. I just hope you’re now way above where “mama hides the cookies.” – LaLaLa #PatLaFontaine… pic.twitter.com/bKktWrUtN6
— CiC Foundation (@CiC16foundation) August 18, 2023
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The NHL also issued a statement Friday morning on the Sabres legend, whose 51 years at the microphone marked the longest stint in league history with one team.
“Rick Jeanneret’s unmistakable voice was the signature sound of Buffalo Sabres hockey for half a century,” the league said. “He brought the essence of our game into the homes of Western New Yorkers with passion and excitement and a remarkable flair for capturing the moment.
“The National Hockey League is saddened by his passing and sends its condolences to his wife, Sandra, the entire Jeanneret family, and the countless Sabres fans whose love of the game was enhanced by listening to this legendary broadcaster.”
Rick Jeanneret saw or called most of the biggest moments in Buffalo Sabres history, and in 2019, he shared some of his most memorable moments with The Buffalo News.
Former Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere, now the general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, issued a statement that read, in part, “The Sabres family, the entire city of Buffalo and the National Hockey League lost an iconic voice of the game and a true gentleman. Personally, I have very fond memories having spent a significant portion of my career alongside Rick and I will tell you that the calls he produced will live in a special place in my heart forever.”
Here’s a sampling of other statements and comments on Jeanneret:
Phil Housley, Hockey Hall of Famer and former Sabres player/coach: “I am deeply saddened by (the death of) one of the greatest Buffalo Sabres broadcasters & my good friend, Rick Jeanneret. I can still hear him calling, “Woowweee Housleeey” on the air, which has morphed into Howie, & is now our newest grandson. He was one of the best. #RIPRJ”
I am deeply saddened by one of the greatest @BuffaloSabres broadcasters & my good friend, Rick Jeanneret. I can still hear him calling, “Woowweee Housleeey” on the air, which has morphed into Howie, & is now our newest grandson. He was one of the best. #RIPRJ pic.twitter.com/l44mBNK8eV
— Phil Housley (@philhousley6) August 18, 2023
Dan Dunleavy, Sabres play-by-play man: “Buffalo and #RJ proved a perfect fit for one another. His imprint on the city and the #Sabres organization will always be. A father to a friend, a friend to so many, and a part of countless others’ lives. RJ was & will always be an inspiration to originality and creativity.”
Ryan Miller, Sabres goalie, posting a picture with Jeanneret on his banner raising night: “I will always remember this wonderful man who was a true friend.”
I will always remember this wonderful man who was a true friend.❤️RJ pic.twitter.com/RUFlehZiit
— Ryan Miller (@RyanMiller3039) August 18, 2023
From Banner Night to the Last Call and every interaction at a restaurant or grocery store, Rick Jeanneret knew how much Western New York loved him.
Patrick Kane, South Buffalo native and current NHL free agent: “Sharing my sympathy with the Jeanneret family on Rick’s passing. He was one of the biggest reasons I liked the Sabres so much growing up. RIP RJ.”
Jay McKee, former Sabres defenseman: “Such a good human and the best play by play announcer there ever was. Forever a legend. You are already missed RJ.”
Matthew Barnaby, former Sabres forward: “I’m sad.. I’m crying…RIP RJ I (heart emoji) u. We all love u #Sabres #Mayday #LalaLafontaine #Legend.”
Marc Stein, Sabres fan and longtime NBA writer for outlets such as ESPN and the New York Times: “No one could make the word BUFFALO before Sabres sound so poetic like RJ. Thank you for everything!”
John Forslund, Seattle Kraken and TNT broadcaster: “Condolences to the family and to the great fans of the Buffalo Sabres. He epitomized the soul of a proud franchise. Personally, thanks for the friendship RJ, rest in peace.”
Nick Bakay, actor/comedian and Buffalo native while posting a picture with Jeanneret: “Sabre press box. The only other picture of me this excited is when i was twelve and got a pic with Bobby Orr. If you’re from Buffalo, this is a day you hoped would never come. R.I.P. the greatest voice in the game.”
Sabre press box. The only other picture of me this excited is when i was twelve and got a pic with Bobby Orr. If you’re from Buffalo, this is a day you hoped would never come. R.I.P. the greatest voice in the game pic.twitter.com/zvOW1ypD1K
— Nick Bakay (@NickBakay4real) August 18, 2023
“He’s somebody who has been ingrained not only with our organization, but with the city and Western New York for such a long time,” Okposo told The Buffalo News.
Greg Wyshynski, ESPN writer: “RIP to an absolute legend. Was a guest on THE DROP and could have talked with him for days.”
Mike Buczkowski, president of Rich Baseball and longtime Bisons GM: “I had the great fortune of doing an internship, seated next to Rick Jeanneret in the broadcast booth for a season in the mid 1980’s. An incredible experience that helped me in my pursuit of a career in sports. Thank you and rest in peace RJ.”
Chris Cuthbert, Sportsnet play-by-play announcer: “Sad to hear. Not sure anyone wore the passion for the job as well as Rick. A wonderful, humble man. Condolences to his family and legion of fans.”
Mike Maniscalco, Carolina Hurricanes play-by-play man and Buffalo native: “There are no words that can aptly sum up what a loss this is. That said RJ would have had the right ones. He was an original and as good as he was on the air he was an even better person off air. RIP to one of the best to ever put on a headset.”
Jim Matheson, Hall of Fame writer of the Edmonton Journal: “Sad day for all of us who loved Rick’s call of Sabres games. There was nobody like Rick. Huge loss for all of hockey.”
The Western New York community and the hockey world took to social media late Thursday night to mourn the passing of iconic Buffalo Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret. Here is a sampling of early reaction.
Chris Dierken, Sabres director of media relations: “So unbelievably lucky to have been able to call my childhood idol a coworker. Thanks for the memories, RJ.”
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers and former Sabres forward: “Rick Jeanneret was one of the greats at broadcasting, lots of great memories hearing his voice on the highlights after games in Buffalo. Thank you for the great entertainment and rest in peace Rick.”
Kevin Weekes, former NHL goaltender and ESPN/NHL Network commentator: “May he rest in peace. Absolutely legendary in his incredible calls of the Buffalo Sabres on the mic. So kind and funny off the air as well. Condolences to his family, loved ones and friends all across Western New York.”
The Buffalo Bisons: “There was no one better at connecting the WNY sports community to the team they love, and his passion, dedication and enthusiasm was a Hall of Fame representation of what it means to be a Buffalo sports fan.”
Greg Brown, Pittsburgh Pirates play-by-play man and former Bisons/Bills analyst: “One of the most underrated broadcasters in all of sports. A brilliant play-by-play man. Honored to have worked & LEARNED from Rick at @WGR550 #RIPRJ #MayDay”
Pat Malacaro, Bisons play-by-play man, using Latin with a photo of a meeting with Jeanneret as a 12-year-old along with his brother in the late 90s: “Requiescat In Pace, RJ”
Joe Beninati, Washington Capitals television play-by-play man: “I would walk by his booth and be greeted with, ‘Come on in, Joey.’ (I loved that, few people other than close family called me by that name). Sitting with Rick was special. You learned & you laughed a lot. Warmest wishes of comfort to all who mourn the loss of this true legend.”
NHL Alumni Association: “His kind heart, passion for hockey, and wit was felt by everyone who met him. Rick was also a great friend of our #NHLAlumni family. His name forever hanging in the rafters in Buffalo; RJ left a lasting legacy not only for Sabres fans, but in hockey and broadcasting history.”
Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun: “Rick was a legend. Listening on radio in Toronto as a kid, we thought he was such a Sabres homer, but when I got in the biz, got to know him and hear his stories, you understood what he meant to Buffalo and to the rich history of sports broadcasting.”
Howard Berger, former Maple Leafs reporter for FAN 590 in Toronto: “Another big hockey loss. Rick Jeanneret, voice of the Buffalo Sabres from 1971-2022. The St. Catharines native was 81. I had the privilege of getting to know him during my radio years covering the Leafs. A truly nice man. A legend in his time.”
Ray Ferraro, ESPN analyst and former NHL forward: “An amazing career and connection to the Sabres and the community. Peace to his family and friends.”
Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, former Sabres defenseman, Columbus broadcaster: “A true legend in the broadcast booth and away from it. Funny, caring and always looking to help. You will be missed RJ.”
Eric Fisher, St. Bonaventure grad and longtime sports business reporter currently at Front Office Sports: “Nobody like RJ, before or since. The one solace is that he had an incredible sendoff to his career last year, and the hockey and Buffalo communities were able to tell RJ what he meant to them.”
Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun: “RIP to a legendary broadcaster and wonderful person. Generations of Sabres, and NHL fans, grew up with Rick’s passion, his enthusiasm and his tremendous calls.”
Steve Cangialosi, former New Jersey Devils play-by-play man: “In my 16 years on the @NJDevils broadcast, one of the great joys in my work was stopping in Rick’s adjacent booth in Buffalo before a game to talk about hockey a little bit, family a lot, and things that are most important. RIP brother. Forever the soundtrack of Sabres’ hockey.”
American Hockey League: “We join the hockey world in remembering Rick Jeanneret, whose legendary career as the voice of Buffalo hockey began with our own Bisons in the late 1960s. #RIPRJ”
Andrew Holland, national media relations director of Nature Conservancy of Canada and longtime former radio/TV reporter in New Brunswick: “While Rick didn’t broadcast on CBC/CTV, he was a Canadian citizen and we got ‘the highlight film!’ Rick’s enthusiasm was a staple. Jeanneret and Chuck Kaiton in Hartford were joys to hear during Adams Division matchups.”