PITTSBURGH – Rick Jeanneret knows how scary it can be to receive a cancer diagnosis. He also knows the disease can be beaten.
He’s going to remind people by joining the American Cancer Society for the “Relay for Life of Buffalo.”
The Sabres announcer will open the fundraiser May 20 at Canalside by leading the first lap, also known as the Survivors Lap. Cancer survivors are cheered on by the other participants in a celebration of victories over cancer.
Jeanneret was diagnosed with Stage Three throat cancer in June 2014. He returned to Buffalo’s broadcast booth five months later.
“Cancer is to be respected, but not feared,” Jeanneret said. “You’ve got to know going into it that it’s not fun, it’s not easy and not everybody makes it. But I had a good feeling and the doctors gave me a good chance.”
The American Cancer Society estimates there were 14.5 million cancer survivors in the United States in 2014. The organization hosts Relays for Life around the world, with more than 4 million participants in 6,000 events last year. Relay for Life fundraisers in Western New York brought in more than $1 million.
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The event at Canalside will begin at 5 p.m. For more information on participating or donating, visit RelayForLife.org or call (800) 227-2345.
“At one point, cancer was an automatic death sentence,” Jeanneret said. “It’s not now. We can’t give up.”
Right wing Hudson Fasching has seen time on the Sabres’ top line, while defenseman Casey Nelson has been getting power-play work. Based on recent history, the prime positions won’t necessarily carry into next season – though Nelson is doing his best to make it happen.
Defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Jake McCabe joined the NHL out of college at the end of a Sabres season but spent time in the minors the following year.
“It means a lot for our kids to be able to come in and play and get that experience,” Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma said. “Does it mean that they’re going to have 1,000 games reeled off uninterrupted by a trip to the minors? It doesn’t mean that.
“In the summertime, you make up your roster a different way than right now. Heading into the season, are you going to put a young player in your top six forward lines or top six of defense? There is an opportunity in the last remaining 10 games, eight games, seven games for us for young players and even other players to show what they can do, show where they can play and see if they can be effective.”
Nelson has recorded points in each of his first three games. He played junior hockey in Johnstown, Pa., and the county commissioner presented Nelson with a certificate of recognition for making the NHL prior to the Sabres’ 5-4 shootout loss to Pittsburgh.
A midseason coaching change sparked the Penguins to a championship once. They’re doing their best to make it happen again.
Pittsburgh entered the night 8-1 in its previous nine games and 27-15-5 since firing coach Mike Johnston in December and replacing him with Mike Sullivan. The last time the Pens made a midseason change was 2009, when they brought in Bylsma with 25 games left. They closed the regular season 18-3-4 and proceeded to win the Stanley Cup.
“I see a lot of similarities in how they’re playing and the way their team is playing,” Bylsma said. “Frankly, that should be scary for a lot of people.”
Bylsma, fired by the Pens followed the 2013-14 season, still knows many of the players. During his pregame interview, he abruptly changed his comments to catch the attention of a Pittsburgh forward walking by.
“He’s been providing a ton of offense for us,” Bylsma said of Ryan O’Reilly before shouting, “We have to make sure Patric Hornqvist doesn’t get to the net tonight.”