Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret, who was scheduled to retire after this season, instead is going into oooooovvertimmme.
The National Hockey League team announced Friday that the 73-year-old Jeanneret will continue to do play-by-play after this season and in the foreseeable future.
Jeanneret is scheduled to call 41 games this season in his final year of what was supposed to be his final contract.
However, he has agreed to come back for the 2016-17 season. It is unclear how many games he will work, but Jeanneret said Friday he anticipates it will be in the same range as this season if he feels as healthy as he feels these days.
The Sabres announced the plans for Jeanneret’s future before the regular season, partly because they didn’t want teams around the league to honor him for retiring when there were no plans to do so.
Jeanneret, who has called Sabres games for 43 years, will now work on a year-to-year basis in much the same way as Los Angeles Dodgers legend Vin Scully operates.
Jeanneret said the discussions about returning have been going on for a few months.
“Most if it was predicated on how I felt,” said Jeanneret, a cancer survivor who worked all 47 games he was contracted to do last season after being treated for months for throat cancer.
“I feel great. This never would have happened if I didn’t feel so good. When they offered me an opportunity to come back, I said, ‘Well, sure. Why not? What else am I going to do?’”
“He is healthy, he feels terrific, he’s our Hall of Famer,” said Mark Preisler, the executive vice president for media and content for Pegula Sports and Entertainment. “He is going to decide when it is time for him to go. He’s our treasure. The Sabres are on the rise. I can’t imagine the Sabres hitting the next chapter without Rick Jeanneret at the microphone.”
Jeanneret said optimism about the Sabres being a team on the rise made the decision to continue after this season easier.
“Ohhh, yes. There’s no doubt about that, whatsoever,” said Jeanneret. “And there’s no doubt they are a team on the rise.
“I’m very, very optimistic about this hockey club. I am even optimistic about this year. I know a lot of people figure it is going to take quite a bit of time. I firmly believe they are a playoff contender this year. That adds to it. Of course it does. Why wouldn’t it? Especially after the last couple of seasons, which were in the dumper.
“It is nice to be on the other side looking down.”
His return for the 2016-17 season means that Dan Dunleavy, who signed with the Sabres two years ago to become Jeanneret’s eventual successor, will have to wait to get the No. 1 job he thought would begin in the 2016-2017 season. He will continue to do play-by-play on the games not called by Jeanneret.
“Dan has been very gracious throughout the entire process,” Preisler said. “He understands what Rick means to the Sabres and the fans. He’s perfectly willing to wait for his time. We’re going to find other ways to keep him connected to the fans and let the fans get to know him.”