Legendary Buffalo Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret will be returning for his 51st season in the broadcast booth, but it will be his last. The Sabres announced on Twitter today that Jeanneret will call one more season of Sabres hockey, and will retire at the end of the 2021-22 season and hang up the microphone on his illustrious career. Jeanneret has been the Sabres announcer since their second season in the NHL, and has been the voice of the Sabres for multiple generations of fans now, becoming synonymous with the team itself. One last season of “RJ” will give fans a chance to send him off into retirement with a proper goodbye.
Sabres Announce Jeanneret’s Last Season
“We are very happy Sabres fans will have the chance to give RJ the send-off he deserves as he calls his 51st season of games,” said Mark Preisler, executive vice president of Pegula Sports and Entertainment in a press release. “During the past few weeks, I have rewatched his greatest calls over and over. They still bring chills.” (From ‘Rick Jeanneret to retire at the end of the 2021-2022 season’ WKBW, 8/20/2021)
Preisler is right. When it comes to Sabres legends, whether it be players, coaches, or otherwise, Jeanneret is usually mentioned as one of the most loved and adored figures in Sabres history. “Like our greatest players, Rick is ensconced in this team. It’s almost impossible to listen to a Sabres game without thinking of RJ.”
The past two seasons have been unusual and difficult ones to endure, and the COVID-19 pandemic clouded the future for many people in the NHL, forcing some into early retirement. No one would have blamed the 79-year-old Jeanneret for doing the same to focus on his health and spend more time with his family, but it goes to show how much he means to the fanbase and how much it means to him that he wants to come back for one last run. He will call parts of one last full, 82-game season, and fans will have the chance to see him one last time under normal circumstances, with fans filling the KeyBank Center to accompany his voice with cheers.
Jeanneret & Dan Dunleavy Will Split Broadcasting Duties
While Jeanneret will continute to be the play-by-play voice of the Sabres for the 2021-22 season, it won’t be for every game. He will work 20 regular season games on cable’s MSG and WGR radio, while Dan Dunleavy will have a larger role and call the remaining 62 Sabres games this upcoming season. The load of work has shifted from Jeanneret to Dunleavy over the last number of seasons anyway, with Jeanneret battling throat cancer back in 2014 and reducing the number of games he calls by about half since then. This will be Dunleavy’s ninth season with the Sabres, and he will likely take over fully once Jeanneret retires.
Jeanneret’s 20-game schedule is the same amount that he worked last season in the shortened 56-game season, so his workload will be even less for the 2021-22 season. Additionally, as has been the case in recent seasons, he will only work Sabres home games, and won’t travel with the team on the road. This number of games is seen as a good compromise for all parties, as his desire to return for one last run, the Sabres’ desire to give him a proper send-off, and Dunleavy’s desire to finally take over the play-by-play reins will all be met with this model.
“We bargained a little bit going back and forth but it didn’t take very long,” Jeanneret said in a recent telephone interview. During the last game of the 2020-21 Sabres season, it seemed like much of the MSG broadcast was dedicated to celebrating his career, so it would have seemed natural for him to retire after his 50th season. But, after some bargaining, all parties were able to make something work, and Sabres fans are definitely glad it worked out that way. (From ‘’Last Call’ for Rick Jeanneret: Legendary Sabres broadcaster will call 20 games and then retire’ The Buffalo News, 8/20/2021)
Jeanneret Made Some of NHL’s Most Iconic Calls
The Sabres have had a lot of memorable moments over the last 50 seasons, between the “Fog Game” and the bat, the controversial “foot in the crease” call in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, and electrifying players like the three members of the French Connection, Dominik Hasek, and more. For all of those moments, Jeanneret has been the voice telling the stories behind them. For every Sabres memory, he is the one who made them extra memorable – and not just for Sabres fans.
Jeanneret has contributed some of the most iconic calls in NHL history, and has earned his place in the annals of broadcasting excellence, not just in Buffalo but everywhere. The Buffalo History Museum even has a dedicated room in the Buffalo sports wing where visitors can recreate some of his greatest Sabres calls using a special recording device. From “May Day” to “Now Do You Believe?” to “La-La-La-LaFontaine” and more, Jeanneret’s calls will continue to live on in hockey history well after he ties the ribbon on his career.
Sabres Retiring A Broadcasting Legend
The Sabres shared a message from Jeanneret on their Twitter account that read “To spend 50 years doing any one job is more than a person can ask for, let alone one as special as mine. My interactions with the fans at KeyBank Center have been one of the thrills of my career, one that was sorely missing over the past year. So, let’s make it 51. I look forward to seeing you at the rink for one last run.”
Jeanneret, who turns 80 next year, hasn’t had the chance to call any Sabres playoffs games since 2011, when they last made the postseason. Sabres fans have hoped for the team to be competitive just one more time to hear how he might light up at the opportunity to call meaningful games, but for a team undergoing their second rebuild in a decade, their chances of making the playoffs this upcoming season looks unlikely.
Jeanneret, who has seen all of the NHL’s strangest and most unlikely underdog stories of the past 50 years, dismissed the notion that the Sabres are destined for last place in the 2021-22 season. “No, I don’t look at it like that,” he said, laughing. “I can’t. Stranger things have happened.”
Have a favorite RJ call or memory from the past 50 years? Share it down below! And check out this compilation of his top-10 goal calls for the Sabres over the years.
Brandon is a Buffalo Sabres & San Jose Sharks Contributor for THW and Co-Host of THW’s ‘Sabres Scoop,’ who received his Master of Science in Sport Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and founded his website, Seltytending, in 2017. He is an avid hockey writer and podcaster with prior work experience in the OJHL, NWHL, and NCAA. Twitter: @BSalts15