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Hockey hall makes call for honors for Jeanneret

It's tough to find a mother who's more proud of her boy than Kay Jeanneret. In her early 90s, Jeanneret can be spotted walking in a Sabres jersey that trumpets her son, Rick. She got the sweater last fall when Buffalo's legendary play-by-play man took his rightful spot in the Sabres Hall of Fame, and she's proud to wear it whenever she can.

Next time she pulls the jersey out of the closet, she can put a Hockey Hall of Fame patch on it. Her son is taking his rightful spot there, too.

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced Friday that Rick Jeanneret is this year's recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.

Jeanneret, selected by the NHL Broadcasters' Association, will be recognized at the Hockey Hall of Fame as a media honoree Nov. 12 in Toronto.

"I'm excited, there's no doubt about that whatsoever," Rick Jeanneret said by phone. "You can try and act blase and try and say, 'Well, it's just another day in RJ's life,' but it's not. It really does mean something.

"It means a lot to me when the fans recognize me for what I do, but they do that on a regular basis. Organizations such as halls of fame don't do it on a regular basis, particularly the Hockey Hall of Fame. There's been a lot of broadcasters in the NHL who are not in the Hockey Hall of Fame, so it's impressive to me to be allowed within the doors."

Jeanneret is the second Sabres play-by-play man to earn the Foster Hewitt. The late Ted Darling joined the Hall's media wing in 1994. The Foster Hewitt award, named for the legendary "Hockey Night in Canada" announcer, began in 1984. One of the inaugural winners was Montreal Canadiens announcer Danny Gallivan, and Jeanneret's name will be on the wall with his.

"It's a chance to be among some pretty exotic company," Jeanneret said. "I'm not only talking about the people I've worked with like Ted Darling, but somebody that I admired when I was growing up and that was Danny Gallivan. When I first started, Danny was still working. He was just at the end of his career, but I remember looking down the broadcast press row in Montreal Forum and seeing him down there. It made me feel pretty special down at the other end, I can tell you that."

Jeanneret, who was named to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame earlier this week, began calling Sabres games in 1971-72, the team's second season. He just completed his 40th year and will be back for a 41st.

"This is an honor that is long overdue," said Chuck Kaiton, president of the NHL Broadcasters' Association. "Rick has been synonymous with the Buffalo Sabres. His exciting calls have thrilled hockey fans in the greater Niagara region for more than 40 years."

Jeanneret will be joined in Toronto in November by Roy MacGregor, a columnist for the Globe and Mail in Canada. MacGregor has been named the winner of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, a Hockey Hall of Fame media honor that has previously been won by former Buffalo News writers Jim Kelley (2004) and Dick Johnston (1986), and former Courier-Express reporter Charlie Barton (1985).

The ceremony in Toronto will bring the number of broadcasting and writing honorees in the Hockey Hall of Fame to 88.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Jeanneret, who will be accompanied by his biggest fan. "My mom, she'll be there again. You know that. She'll be pumped up to be there, for sure. She's gung-ho to go already. She's got her bag to go to Toronto."