Few voices are as synonymous with an NHL team. Few voices are as beloved by fans of an NHL team. So the mission is clear for Rick Jeanneret: Beat cancer, and get back in front of a microphone to call Buffalo Sabres games.
Jeanneret, a 43-year broadcasting veteran, told the Buffalo News that he has been diagnosed with throat cancer. “I would like to stress I have every intention of coming back,” said Jeanneret. “I have probably three months ahead of me that aren’t going to be fun. I know they aren’t going to be.”
Jeanneret, who has missed only a handful of games because of illness in his 43 years with the Sabres, said his symptoms began late in the past NHL season, when he had a nagging sore throat that eventually led him to visit a doctor. An independent contractor with the Sabres, Jeanneret’s health insurance is in Canada and not in the United States. “I thought it would pass,” he said of his sore throat.
When it didn’t, his doctor sent him to an ear, nose and throat specialist and the growth was discovered. He had the biopsy June 11 and cancer was diagnosed June 19. His reaction was understandable. “It was a little bit of trepidation,” said Jeanneret, who stopped smoking more than 20 years ago. “It is the great unknown for me now. I can listen to everything the doctors say and you put yourself in their hands. You guys do your job and I’m sure everything is going to be fine.”
The 71-year-old said that surgery wasn’t an option, and that he’ll begin undergoing radiation therapy.
The Sabres made a deal with Jeanneret last season in which he calls 47 of Buffalo’s games. The team said in a statement:
The Buffalo Sabres are deeply saddened to learn of Rick Jeanneret’s cancer diagnosis. RJ has been a vital part of the Sabres family and the Buffalo community for 43 years and this news undoubtedly weighs heavily on everyone who has had the privilege of listening to his broadcasts through the years.
As he begins treatment in the coming weeks, we will continue to keep RJ, his wife, Sandra, his mother, Kay, his sister, Marcia, his children, Mark and Chris, his stepdaughter, Shelly, and his grandchildren in our thoughts. We wish RJ a full and speedy recovery and know his tenacity will serve him well in his fight.
The team has also set up a dedicated email address, GetWellRJ@sabres.com, for fans to communicate their well wishes to Jeanneret.
“I consider this to be a bump in the road and am fully intending to come back and fulfill my obligations to the Sabres,” he said.