BUFFALO – Rick Jeanneret, the iconic play-by-play voice of the Sabres since 1971, has agreed to a new three-year contract and will call an increasingly reduced number of games over the deal before retiring, the club announced today.
Dan Dunleavy, a veteran Toronto-area broadcaster, will be Jeanneret’s substitute before assuming the primary play-by-play job in 2016-17.
Today’s news will almost certainly delight and sadden Sabres fans. In the end, they have three more seasons of Jeanneret, whose passion and colorful calls have made him a local legend and earned him the Foster Hewitt Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame last year.
Jeanneret’s status has been subject to yearly speculation since he began working a reduced slate of games several years ago. Before the NHL lockout began wiping away games last year, he planned on calling all 82 contests, a nice way to retire, he figured.
“The decision was obviously very difficult for me to make,” Jeanneret said in a statement. “It has become a yearly deliberation, deciding if the coming year would be my last or what season I would finally step away. 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 to Dan, who I greatly respect and I believe Sabres fans will grow to love.”
Meanwhile, Dunleavy, a veteran of the Maple Leafs’ broadcast team, will begin substituting in 2013-14. He will also be on the team’s pre and postgame shows.
Dunleavy briefly filled in for Jeanneret in 2009-10. He spent 19 years at Sportsnet Radio and The Fan 590 in Toronto. Dunleavy has extensive play-by-play experience in junior hockey, including nine years of the world junior championship. He has also called AHL games, lacrosse and soccer.
Jeanneret will remain with the Sabres in an honorary capacity after he retires.