BUFFALO – To winger Patrick Kaleta, who grew up in nearby Angola listening to Rick Jeanneret call games, the greatest perk of playing for the Sabres isn’t money or prestige.
“One of the best, if not the best thing about being a Sabre is hearing your name called by Rick Jeanneret,” Kaleta said Friday inside the First Niagara Center. “I still get chills listening to some of stuff on YouTube.”
So whenever Kaleta needs to “get pumped up,” he listens to the legendary play-by-play man, who will return tonight, call some famous goals.
“I’m just happy and privileged to have my name called by him,” said Kaleta, who used to turn down the television to listen to Jeanneret on the radio.
In an otherwise glum season, Friday was a special day. The Sabres announced Jeanneret, who said last week he’s cancer-free, would call the first period of tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Jeanneret has been sidelined all season battling throat cancer.
“The time seems right to slowly begin transitioning back to work,” Jeanneret said in a statement. “My doctors have told me I’m cancer-free and I’m feeling well enough to get back in the booth, even if it’s only on a limited basis for the time being. The kindness and well-wishes from everyone, especially Sabres fans and the Western New York community, has been overwhelming and I’m truly grateful for the tremendous support during this process.”
Kaleta called Jeanneret a “true role model in what he’s gone through and what he’s battled.”
Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers added: “It’s pretty special, not only for R.J., but to see what he’s gone through, he fought out of it and was a fighter throughout the whole experience. It’s a pretty special moment for the whole organization.”
That first goal will be special, too.
“R.J.’s arguably the best in the league,” Myers said. “To be the guy to get the first goal with him would be pretty cool.”
Kaleta and Myers both kept in contact with Jeanneret over the last several months.
Sabres winger Marcus Foligno (shoulder) will return tonight. He missed five of the last six games.
“I got to be playing my (physical) style of play,” Foligno said. “Didn’t do it last game, and just needed some time to group it together and come back stronger.”
Sabres coach Ted Nolan wouldn’t reveal which forward will sit. Nolan said goalie Michal Neuvirth will start. He had no update on defenseman Josh Gorges (lower body). Gorges was being evaluated Friday.
Nolan seemed shocked the Sabres came out so flat against Edmonton last Friday after Jeanneret and Hall of Fame Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who recently announced he’s cancer-free, spoke to the team.
“There’s no bigger inspiration than when Jim Kelly walks in your room with Rick Jeanneret,” he said. “You can’t get two bigger sports figures, especially with the Buffalo area. I thought for sure we’d come out flying, just for that sake. Different strokes for different folks. That would inspire me.”
The Sabres lost 3-2 to the Oilers.
One thought on “Sabres excited to have Rick Jeanneret back: ‘A pretty special moment’”
In radio a lot is made of those communicators that make it seem like they are talking just to you, but when it comes to Rick Jeanneret you know you are not alone. Listerning to Rick is a group event. For certain seasons, it has been Rick that has told us about how the crossed Swords have performed. It was marking history with Game Six in 1973 when the crowd at the Aud said thank you Sabres, in 1975 when Rene Robert scored from the corner in the fog past Bernie Parent, When Gil Perreault scored number 500, when Dominik Hasek Stood on his head, When Brett Hull was in the crease….
The Olympia, Maple Leaf Gardenm Boston Garden Chicago Stadium, The Magical Forum in Montrealm The Spectrum and Igloo in Pennsylvania, The Cow Palace, all the temples that we remember, to the new arenas that are the same and forgettable, it has been Rick that has taken Buffalo fans there. To listen to the 80+ sermons from on high each season. In a world of cookie cutter announcers, Rick Jeanneret is unique, he is notable, he is the excitement that Buffalo has shared. Center Ice on my satellite dish can only be better with his return.
How I long for some of the teams that have gone by the wayside only to hear Rick Jeanneret wake the ghosts of the Hartford Civic Center and Le Colisee, to the man who brught us Roger Crozier, Don Edwards, Bob Sauve, Grant Fuhr, Dave Dryden, Dominik Hasek, Ryan Miller and blue liners Jim Schoenfeld, Jerry Kroab, Phil Housley, Mike Rmasey, Lee Fogolin, and of course, Tim Horton, it will be Rick’s voice that we will always hear saying their names. Awhile the names are important, the most important part, is who gave us those names. No Matter what he says, its how he says it, we all look forward to hearing again.