‘Beautiful Noise’ | Sellout crowd pays tribute on Jeanneret’s night

Rick Jeanneret stepped onto the ice at 6:47 pm to the sound of beautiful noise from a crowd of 19,070.

The beautiful noise continued as Jeanneret walked from the Zamboni doors toward the black carpet where nearly 30 Sabers alumni and each of his living broadcast partners awaited.

The ovation kept going at 6:48, when Sabers owner Terry Pegula stepped to the podium. It continued for nearly a minute longer as Pegula stood by, waiting for the noise to dim long enough to speak.

“I’m supposed to say something about Rick,” Pegula said finally. “But I think the crowd just said it all.”

Video: RJ Night: Full Banner Ceremony

The sound captivated the Sabers players, none of whom were born when Jeanneret drove over the border and agreed to a job as the team’s radio play-by-play voice in 1971. They lined up along the bench, some seated on the ice, and absorbed the history happening before their eyes.

“For all of us not from Buffalo with this privilege, honor of being here and being part of the Sabers, you know the history, you’ve watched it from a distance,” coach Don Granato would later say. “You’ve put a jersey on and practiced every day waiting and hoping to feel what you could feel tonight.”

The noise would carry the Sabers to an early goal from Peyton Krebs, scored less than three minutes into their game against the Nashville Predators. It crescendoed with each goal thereafter – two from Tage Thompson and another from Victor Olofssonwho broke a 3-3 tie.

It would take shapes of “RJ! RJ!” and “Thank you, RJ!” as the Sabers battled out the final minute of a 4-3 win, after which Alex Tuch – who grew up listening to Jeanneret call games with his father in Syracuse – joined Cody Eakin in escorting Jeanneret onto the ice for a salute from the team.

Video: Jeanneret sits in on victory speech on RJ Night

The sound would prompt Thompson to draw comparisons between a team and a city.

“We just know how enthusiastic and how genuine this city is, and I think we have the same thing in our locker room, we have a lot of genuine guys,” he would say. “Just a blue-collar group that’s trying and earn back everything, earn back the respect of the fans.”

It would spur Krebs to think of the future.

“It makes you want to win the Stanley Cup, for sure,” Krebs said. “Having those people in the building every night, we’re going to win hockey games.”

Jeanneret absorbed the symphony of cheers at 6:53 pm, when the banner adorning his initials dropped alongside those of seven players he helped make legendary: Rene Robert, Gilbert Perreault, Richard Martin, Tim Horton, Danny Gare, Pat LaFontaine, Dominik Hasek – and now, Rick Jeanneret.

The sound echoed from sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas, all of whom had found their own beautiful noise in Jeanneret’s voice over 51 years. It would echo more than four hours later, at 10:11 pm, when horns could still be heard honking outside to the tune of “Let’s Go Buffalo!”

“I know I’ve been stuck in this parking lot after games,” Granato would say, referencing his days as a Toronto Maple Leafs scout from 2006 to 2008. “So, I thank the fans for staying because I know I’ve got stuck in those lots. “

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: This team.This night. # ThankYouRJ pic.twitter.com/KlCY57mSCx

Jeanneret stepped to the podium at 6:54, the noise still roaring around him. He reiterated the message he gave upon his induction to the Sabers Hall of Fame 10 years ago, that there was no other place he ever wanted to be. He thanked his family, the players, and his fellow broadcasters.

He ended by referencing Neil Diamond’s 1976 song, “Beautiful Noise,” in which the songwriter finds beauty in everyday sounds: cars on the street, children in the park.

“My beautiful noise is a little different,” Jeanneret said. “Mine is the roar of the crowd. The roar of the crowd from you and your moms and dads, and your grandmas and grandpas, and even some great-grandmas and great-grandpas – I’ve met many of you.

“The noise you and all the others have created is like my lullaby,” he continued. “I find it very soothing.”

With that, Jeanneret told his listeners he loved them, and they returned the favor with beautiful noise as the evening wore on.

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