Note: This post was written by Ryan Burgess.
Hello, fellow Buffalo Sabres fans. For those of you that don’t know me, I serve as the public address announcer and music director for several area hockey teams – ranging from junior hockey to professional women’s hockey and international events. I’ve been announcing for close to twenty years – since my sophomore year of high school . . . and tonight, the Buffalo Sabres are honoring the reason I started announcing: Rick Jeanneret.
‘RJ’ was my introduction to hockey in fifth grade. I remember sitting on the couch with my dad watching the game. I didn’t know a lot of what was going on, but it sure sounded exciting to me.
I was hooked – and just in time. The next year, the Sabres went to the Final.
A couple of years later, my family moved to Central Texas. I was miserable – missing my friends, my school, and of course the Sabres. I know Dad was hurting, too – because he paid for NHL Center Ice so that we could continue to watch games and listen to RJ do his thing. It was a great relief for our family in moving back to Western New York in 2003.
Returning to the same school that you moved away from two years later was as awkward as could be for yours truly. Looking for anything I could do to fit back in better, I offered to start announcing my high school basketball games. I wasn’t the most professional because I was emulating RJ (“Brian Lang - THREE from Lake Ontario!”), but I was having fun – and so was the school.
That same year, Dad took me to my first Sabres game (a preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets). Being in the building for a game was surreal, knowing RJ was up there in the press box doing his thing. I wondered if he got to push the goal horn button as well! I also heard the voice above the crowd calling the goals, penalties, and whatnot. I knew then that my dream job would be to work in that building calling hockey.
A number of years later, I had the opportunity to meet RJ for the first time. He was gracious, engaging, and outright hilarious. I had chills afterward because I knew I was in the presence of true greatness – the pinnacle of the profession.
Nearly 20 years on from the first time I picked up a microphone, I’m living my dream as a hockey announcer – and it wouldn’t have happened without RJ calling a fight as I was walking by the TV in the living room one dreary December day in 1997.
So, to Rick Jeanneret, I say: thank you. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for knowing exactly what to say at exactly the right time. To me, you are the Buffalo Sabres, and your honors tonight are richly deserved.
Buffalo Sabres Hall of Famer. Hockey Hall of Famer. Foster Hewitt Memorial Award recipient. For fifty-one years of memories . . . I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
- Ryan Burgess