“RJ”, the biggest icon in franchise history?

I think Sabres fans everywhere are extremely happy for Rick Jeanneret today, the St. Cats’ boy who is as much a Buffalonian as anyone born and raised in the area is.  Fans outside of Buffalo don’t much care for RJ but as WGR’s Bulldog said today, RJ is Buffalo, he’s a Buffalo flavor, a Buffalo taste, a Buffalo institution. It’s impossible to argue with that in my opinion.  RJ is part of the inherit fabric of the Sabres’ franchise and to hear his voice shatter on the radio with emotion is something that raises goose pimples on the Sabres’ faithful.

I was fortunate to grow up with Ted Darling as the television play by play man and RJ primarily as the radio guy.  When Ted passed away the jarring transition to John Gurtler was eased by turning the TV volume off and turning up the radio with RJ, for no other reason than to hear a familiar voice after losing a voice many of us had grown up with and grown to love dearly.  When the Sabres decided to simulcast RJ seemed to have no difficulty stepping into the television role.  He still to this day calls the game like a radio guy, something which I think makes for a far more interesting and entertaining call than many modern television broadcasters who are apt to ramble about everything but the game.

I doubt any of us could list our favorite RJ highlights on a single sheet of paper, there’s just too many: Falalala, top shelf, call the cops, a million fight calls, the way Gilllllllberrrrrrrrrrrrrrt Perreault rolled off his tongue, discussions of his butt pillow and of course the famous May Day call.  But when I think perhaps my favorite moment was when the Sabres played their last game in the Aud.   After the game with the clock showing 0.0 RJ gave a short speech.  RJ immediately went into his desired wish that the late Ted Darling was standing next to him at that moment.  RJ choked up, fought back some tears.  You can just feel the emotion from him.  For those of us who grew up with Ted a million memories of Ted flashed into our brain.  To me that was RJ in a single minute. It summed him up perfectly.  He has a knack for capturing emotion and giving it voice and through his voice capturing memories that live with us long after they happen.

RJ might be the one single person in team history who the various of generations of fans have both a common love and a common experience with.  I think if you were to ask all ages of fans to talk about people in franchise history they’ve experienced, RJ has to be that uniting force. RJ has dubbed Ted Darling as the voice of the franchise which I won’t argue with, but to me a statue of RJ belongs right next to Seymour, I think he’s been that important both to the culture of being a Sabres fan and the history of the franchise.

Congrats RJ. Selfishly I hope retirement for you is still years away.

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