Editor Note: This is a fantastic fanpost regarding the Sabres broadcasting situation. Being a broadcaster has been a dream of mine so this topic really hits close to home with me.
Rick Jeanneret has been one of the constants for the Sabres organization almost since its inception. He is signed to broadcast for the team again for the 2009-10 season. He is also 67 years old. While his love for the game has never been in doubt, his physical ability to handle the constant travel necessary to do his job is beginning to wane. He took some time off last season on a Western trip to recuperate, something he has never done before. While it is painful for any Sabres fan to think this, we have to begin wondering just how long the Jeanneret era can go on and how much more service to this community RJ's body can continue to give us. It is time for Sabres fans to begin thinking the unthinkable: life in the post-Jeanneret era.
So, what I am bringing up are a list of possible candidates to be RJ's successor as the Sabres play-by-play man. Since the Sabres are typically fond of selecting people with some sort of tie to the organization, the first three names I will offer are people who have such ties. Who could be the next Sabres play-by-play man? The list after the jump.
Candidate #1: Pete Weber. Current position: Play-by-play announcer, Nashville Predators
There are few voices Western New York knows better than Weber. He was the play-by-play man for the Bisons for thirteen years, calling some of the Herd's most memorable games, including the miracle comeback 9th inning (that fell painfully short) in Game 4 of the 1991 AA Championship series against Denver. He was the Sabres radio play-by-play man during the time there was a split tv/radio broadcast in the mid-90s. He also served as color man for the Los Angeles Kings in the "Triple Crown Line" era and has been the only play-by-play man the Predators have ever had. He's done work for the Bills, Bulls and Bonnies. Frankly, there is no better candidate. However, Weber is also no longer young and the way his situation was handled when the Sabres eliminated his position might have soured him on the organization. Let us hope that new ownership and management might change his mind. Weber is a consummate professional in every sense of the word and I hope that someday he shall be enshrined in the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame for the service to the community he has already done.
Candidate #2: Randy Moller. Current position: Play-by-play announcer, Florida Panthers
Former Sabres defenseman Randy Moller is one of the few players who has turned into a successful play-by-play man. He is also, well, let's be blunt, a rogue announcer. Moller is best known for his wide variety of unusual goal calls, often involving movie quotes or pop culture references. He's a showman but in a very different manner than RJ is. I am not certain that his style will be appreciated in Buffalo but I can tell you that Panthers games are always fun to listen to.
Candidate #3: Mark Jeanneret. Current position: Play-by-play annoucer, Erie Otters (OHL)
Mark's first name is not well known to Sabres fans but his last name is. Rick's son has been the play-by-play man for the Otters for quite some time now. Having been to and have listened to quite a few Otters games in my time (my father-in-law and brother-in-law have season tickets), there is a reason why Mark is still plying his trade in the OHL. He's simply not anything even remotely approaching NHL caliber. Even if he was only half the broadcaster his father is, he'd be a good choice. Unfortunately, that would be generous.
Candidate #4: Curt Keilback. Current position: Now a realtor in Winnipeg
When RJ went on vacation during the team's Western swing last season, Keilback was selected as his replacement. He was the voice of the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes from 1979 until he was unexpectedly terminated in 2007. He did a superlative job as RJ's temporary replacement and you have to wonder if the Sabres were at that time looking at him as a possible replacement in the long term. It is truly a puzzlement why a play-by-play man of his level of skill does not have work in the business.
While Weber and Keilback are no longer young, both Mark Jeanneret and Moller are still in their prime and could last for a very long time. Stability is something this community values and I think that might be a good reason to choose a younger announcer over an established veteran. Still, we don't know how much gas RJ has in the tank and we hope he can continue to entertain us for a very long time. The man has certainly earned a happy retirement and I wish him well whatever decision he makes.