OPINION: What a night celebrating Rick Jeanneret

The fans were just as loud at the end as they were to start, helping the Sabres to a 4-3 win over Nashville

Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – What a night it was on Friday for the Buffalo Sabres and their fans.

A sellout crowd helped the team honor Rick Jeanneret, as his name was raised to the rafters. Fans were excited, supportive and loud from the time the ceremony started until the time Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin helped Jeanneret onto the ice for a team picture after a nice 4-3 win.

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I wish I could write the proper words here on how honored I was to be in that arena honoring a legend I grew up listening to. My ultimate goal was to do play-by-play for the Buffalo Sabres. When I reached that goal, I reflected on how much Jeanneret influenced me.

Numerous alumni came back for RJ, as well as the fans. I can’t even remember the last sellout for a Sabres home game, but the fans couldn’t get enough of Jeanneret. He also can’t get enough of the Sabres organization and its fans.

“I can tell you I almost lost it more than once. I had some difficulty," Jeanneret said following Friday's ceremony. "I expected it to be a sold-out, ruckus Buffalo crowd, there was no doubt about that whatsoever. But it overwhelmed me on some occasions.”

There were many special moments in the ceremony.

“To see all the guys that came back for this, all the alumni guys and to have all the former broadcasters that I’ve worked with over the years, that’s pretty special too,” Jeanneret said.

Jeanneret joined Gil Perreault, Rick Martin, Rene Robert, Tim Horton, Danny Gare, Pat LaFontaine and Dominik Hasek in the rafters.

“That’s pretty heady company," he said. "I mean, to just take a look and see my name up there with all the other fellas and I think, 'Wow, this is really something.' I don’t see too many other broadcasters' names up around the NHL (Gene Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers and Dan Kelly of the St. Louis Blues, while Bob Miller of the Los Angeles Kings has a statue outside the arena), so that makes it even more special."

For the second time, this group of young Sabres got a chance to see what it’s like in Buffalo when the fans are in the arena and fully invested in their team.

Buffalo was so pumped after RJ’s ceremony, two kids got on the scoreboard quickly. Dylan Cozens ripped a shot and Peyton Krebs converted the rebound just 2:14 into the game. By 13:22 of the first period, Tage Thompson added two goals, including his 30th of the season, making it 3-1, Buffalo.

The Sabres just kept playing well, and used the energy provided from their fans to go 9-3-3 in their last 15 games. Buffalo now has a points percentage of .442 and are right behind the 24th place Detroit Red Wings. That’s really about as high up as they’ll get, as the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks are likely just too far ahead.

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Buffalo will really be tested in their next six games, playing the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes each twice, and then playing the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.

***Photo: Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres), Bill Wippert (@BWipp)

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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