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Alan Pergament: Rick Jeanneret to call Saturday's Sabres finale. Will it also be his?

Alan Pergament: Rick Jeanneret to call Saturday's Sabres finale. Will it also be his?

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Rick Jeanneret

Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret is celebrating his 50th season as a Sabres announcer.

Play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret will call the visiting Buffalo Sabres season finale against Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon on MSG while the rest of the nation outside of Buffalo sees the game on NBC affiliates.

The bigger question is: Will Jeanneret continue to call many – or any games – next season?

In a brief telephone interview Tuesday, Jeanneret said it may be some time before there is an answer from him and Mark Preisler, Pegula Sports and Entertainment executive vice president.

“We have agreed to wait until after the season is over to talk,” said Jeanneret. “There are no timelines.”

Preisler confirmed Jeanneret’s statement.

“Like we have the past few seasons, we will sit down when the time is right to discuss next year,” said Preisler.

The future of play-by-play announcer Dan Dunleavy, who has been Jeanneret’s backup for eight seasons, also will have to wait until after the season. Dunleavy’s three-year contract is expiring after the season. Analyst Rob Ray’s contract also is expiring. Preisler said he expects both Dunleavy and Ray will return next season.

Jeanneret, who turns 79 in July and is celebrating his 50th season as a Sabres announcer, will finish the season having called 20 games from Buffalo. The announcers haven’t traveled to road games this season.

One of the team’s few highlights came Tuesday night, a 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders that saw journeyman goalie Michael Houser make 45 saves and stop all three Islander shots in the shootout.

Jeanneret captured the moment perfectly.

“The legend of Michael Houser grows and grows,” Jeanneret said after the final shootout stop.

In the telephone interview hours before the game, Jeanneret conceded this season has been disappointing.

“Ten years in a row now,” said Jeanneret of the team’s playoff drought. “I thought they would be somewhat better. I didn’t expect them to compete for the Stanley Cup. It’s been very disappointing.”

It’s been such a bummer year that you might think Jeanneret would prefer not to go out this way in a season without fans in the stands for almost all games.

Preisler has to navigate a tricky situation, as would anyone making the call if and when it is time for a legend to step down. He has to make sure Jeanneret gets a proper send-off if they agree about the timing for retirement. The last thing the team wants to do is create a public relations nightmare by unnecessarily upsetting Jeanneret or his fans.

Ideally, if and when Jeanneret retires after this season or after another season, the Sabres would hold a Rick Jeanneret Night celebrating his career before an arena full of fans.

The team has celebrated Jeanneret’s career in televised games throughout the season, with Saturday’s season final giving his 50 years as the Sabres broadcaster even more attention.

“There will be some testimonials from players and announcers from the history of the organization,” said veteran game producer Joe Pinter.

The testimonials will come from Ray, Danny Gare, Brad May, Rene Robert, Michael Peca, Mike Robitaille, Ryan Miller and Doc Emrick in the pregame show, during intermission and in the postgame and there also may be some off-the-cuff comments during the game.

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TV Critic

Alan Pergament has had a variety of roles at The News since 1970, including as a news and sports reporter. He has been the TV columnist since 1982, with more than year off for good behavior. He is a member of the national Television Critics Association.

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