Rick Jeanneret, legendary announcer for NHL's Buffalo Sabres, dead at 81

 August 19, 2023

Rick Jeanneret, a Hall of Fame broadcaster and longtime play-by-play announcer for the National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres, has passed away at the age of 81, according to WIVB.

In a statement released through the team, his family said, "It is with extreme sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and brother, Rick Jeanneret, Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Buffalo Sabres."

"Rick died on August 17, 2023, with his family by his side after a two-year battle with multi-organ failures. He will be loved forever," the family added.

Honored for an extraordinary career

The Buffalo News reported that Jeanneret, who just turned 81 less than a month ago in July, was born in St. Catharines, Ontario, but spent most of his life in Niagra Falls, Ontario, on the Canadian side of the border near Buffalo.

It was in Niagra Falls that Jeanneret initially pursued a career as a radio DJ in the early 1960s but began to also work as a hockey announcer for the Junior A Niagara Falls Flyers in 1963 -- though he continued to also work as a radio DJ into the 1990s.

In 1971, he began to work for the Buffalo Sabres as a radio broadcast analyst and eventually became one of the team's play-by-play and color announcers -- a job he held until he retired amid much fanfare and honors near the end of the 2022 season.

Those honors included being inducted into multiple Halls of Fame in Buffalo, for hockey, and for radio broadcasting more broadly, not to mention having his name raised among the rafters amid the retired jersey numbers of former star players, and being brought out on the ice after games in order for current players and fans to pay tribute to him.

Team owner, general manager issue statements

"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. How glad I am to have known him. How lucky were we all to have been around him and to have listened to him," Buffalo Sabres team owner Terry Pegula said in a statement. "Rick Jeanneret’s mark on Sabres history extends far beyond the broadcast booth and we will miss him dearly. I extend my deepest condolences to Sandra, Rick’s family, friends, and all that were loved by him."

"Growing up in Buffalo, Rick Jeanneret was not just the voice of the Sabres, he was the voice for our city. He helped foster my love of hockey, along with so many others," Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said. "Beyond the booth, Rick was an incredible man that was loved by all. His wit and humor was unmatched and we are all lucky to have known him. I am heartbroken by his passing and send my condolences to his wife, Sandra, and all of his family and friends. May he rest in peace."

A legend in the announcer's booth

The statement from Jeanneret's family referenced his health struggles in recent years, and The Buffalo News noted that the legendary announcer had survived Stage III throat cancer in 2014, had a pacemaker installed to regulate his heart in 2016, suffered a frightening on-air collapse during a 2018 game that required brief hospitalization, and in recent years had stopped traveling with the team for road games.

He never allowed any of that or anything else, however, to detract from his incredibly animated, excited, over-the-top, and drawn-out calls in response to goals scored, saves made, big hits, on-ice fights, and other great plays from the Sabres.

Per The Buffalo News, Jeanneret is survived by his wife Sandra, sons Mark and Chris, stepdaughter Shelly, and numerous grandchildren. Arrangements for his funeral have not yet been revealed.

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