By Alan Pergament
As predicted here Tuesday, the Buffalo Sabres announced this morning that Hall of Fame play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret will substantially reduce the number of games he calls this season for the National Hockey League team.
What wasn't expected was that Jeanneret also announced his retirement after the end of the 2015-2016 season and his replacement has already been named.
The Sabres release didn't mention how many games that the 71-year-old Jeanneret will work. However, the Sabres believe it will be between 55 and 60 games this season and fewer games in each of the next two seasons. The number of games this season will partly depend on the NHL's national TV schedule.
On Tuesday, I speculated that Jeanneret would work 55-65 games this season.
Reached late this morning, Jeanneret said he expected to work 57 games this season, 47 games next season and half the games in his final season.
Dan Dunleavy, who did play-by-play on two Sabres games in the 2010-11 season and has been on the Toronto Maple Leafs' broadcast team recently, will replace Jeanneret in the 2016-17 after working the games that Jeanneret won't do over the next three seasons.
In a release announcing the moves, Sabres President Ted Black said: “We are very lucky to have such a deep and talented pool of broadcasters in the Sabres organization. RJ is a hall-of-fame talent and we are thrilled that he will be with us for three more years as he winds down his prolific career. We are also excited to bring on Dan, who is a proven play-by-play talent that we know will be a capable successor to RJ. Having an up-and-comer like Dan and a broadcasting legend like RJ behind the microphone will be a great one-two punch for our Sabres broadcasts in the coming years."
The longest-tenured play-by-play man in the NHL, Jeanneret will be going into his 42nd season behind the microphone. The Sabres said he planned for this year to be his final season until the team persuaded him to continue with a new three-year deal that allowed him to reduce his schedule each of the next three seasons. The Sabres added under terms of the new deal Jeanneret will stay with the team in an honorary capacity after he retires from play-by-play.
The Sabres also announced that Rob Ray will return as the color analyst on all games worked by Jeanneret and Dunleavy and that Brian Duff be back as pre-game, post-game and intermission host.
In the Sabres release, Jeanneret said the decision was very difficult to make. "It has become a yearly deliberation, deciding if the coming year would be my last or what season I would finally step away," said Jeanneret. "I initially thought doing a full year of games this coming season and then retiring was the way to go. After discussing it with my family and with the Sabres, we all thought signing this new deal was the right choice. I get to continue to do what I love while slowly reducing my workload and eventually turning the reins over to Dan, who I greatly respect and believe Sabres fans will grow to love.”
Dunleavy certainly will have a tough act to follow. It isn't easy replacing a legend. The Sabres said Dunleavy also will on Sabres pre and post-game broadcasts and have "a substantial presence on Sabres.com" this season in addition to calling the 22-27 games that Jeanneret will take off.
The Toronto native's resume is extensive. He spent 19 years at Sportsnet Radio and The Fan 590 Toronto, and has done play-by-play at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, the 2008 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Halifax and Quebec City, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics Men’s and Women’s Hockey, the OHL’s Mississauga Majors, and Canadian Hockey League and American Hockey League games on Rogers Sportsnet. He also has done play-by-play on professional soccer and lacrosse games.
taggedSports | Sports on the radio