BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Friday marked the end of an era, as Rick Jeanneret called his final Buffalo Sabres game. His name was hung in the rafters at KeyBank Center earlier this month, but this game was about hearing RJ one more time.
“It’s pretty sad. He’s a living legend. He’s done so much for this community,” Sabres fan Sean Walker said.
Fifty-one seasons of Sabres hockey have been called by Jeanneret, who began his career in October 1971. His first game was a Sabres win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the season opener at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium.
Fans have welcomed his iconic voice and creative calls into their homes on television, or in their cars on the radio, for decades.
“He’s the best sports figure around,” Paul Szymanski told News 4. “I grew up with him. I listen to every game. He’s part of my life. I brought him into my house every day.”
The celebration falls on the anniversary of one of RJ’s most famous calls: Legion of Doom. He made the call when Derek Plante scored against the Ottawa to push the Sabres to the second round of the 1997 playoffs.
RJ’s final game — a 3-2 overtime win against the Blackhawks — was bittersweet for hockey fanatics, who descended on downtown Buffalo. They were happy to be there to celebrate his storied career, but sad to see him leave the organization after over five decades.
“Since I was 9 or 10 years old, I’d listen to RJ call the games on my transistor radio in my bedroom when I needed to go to bed,” Donna Schreiber added. “I have chills. I’m probably going to cry at the end of the game because I’ve been listening to him for what, 50 years?”
Other fans say Jeanneret is the reason why they are Buffalo fans.
“It’s just awesome to be here,” Foster MacDonald said. “It’s one of the reasons I’m a Sabres fan.”
Fans say there are too many favorite calls to just pick one. They listed off many famous ones including: May Day, La-La-La-La-LaFontaine, Scary Good, Top Shelf and O-o-o-overtime.
However, Jeanneret’s legacy extends beyond the Ted Darling Press Box. His presence and passion will live on in Buffalo and across the NHL.
“I’m just going to miss him. I’m going to miss his broadcasts,” Szymanski concluded.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.