Alex Tuch was celebrating near the Sabers’ bench when he heard a teammate shout: “Somebody grab RJ!”
So, with a bit of serendipity, the lifelong Sabers fan went and grabbed ahold of the legend. Tuch joined Cody Eakin in escorting Jeanneret onto the ice after their 4-3 win over the Predators, where the newest member of the KeyBank Center rafters was surrounded by players for a team photo.
“It was something that kind of just heat of the moment happened,” Tuch said. “I think it worked out perfectly, the whole team with the saluting of the sticks and all the fans and stuff. It was emotional. It was a lot of fun.”
Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Tuch
Added Kyle Okposo: “I’m kind of hoping they use that as our team picture this year. That was a neat one, just very impromptu and a special moment for all of us to have, for sure.”
The aura of an unforgettable night could still be felt inside KeyBank Center on Saturday, even as the Sabers turned their attention to a grueling stretch of seven games in 12 days that begins at home against the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
Sabers fans packed the arena 19,070 strong to celebrate Jeanneret’s banner being hung in the rafters and brought the noise from the pregame ceremony to the postgame salute.
Okposo, in his sixth season with the Sabers, called it his favorite game in Buffalo.
“Fans were into it all night, doing the wave in the third,” he said. “Guys are looking around, guys got chills. They hadn’t seen it. I just looked at Cozey and said, ‘This is the National League.’ He was a rookie last year, no fans, and he hadn’t seen the building like that. So, it was pretty special. “
Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Okpos
Tuch felt a sense of pride knowing the fans gave Jeanneret a tribute worthy of his 51 years.
“Being a Sabers fan since I was three years old, it meant a lot to me to see someone who really propelled my love for the game to be honored in that way,” he said. “It was just a phenomenal night in general and it was great that we got to win, but afterwards just the applause and the gratitude that everyone showed him was phenomenal.”
Video: Jeanneret sits in on victory speech on RJ Night
The fans were applauding the players, too. The Sabers went into Friday knowing they were in for their first sellout crowd of the season. It just so happened that the celebration for Jeanneret came as the young team is hitting its stride, having now earned points in eight straight games.
“I think we went in and we battled really hard,” Tuch said. “I thought we gave them a very entertaining game. I thought we played a very all-around good, team game, I thought from start to finish. I know it was only a one-goal game but I thought we had the momentum for most of the game.
“We played a playoff-bound team really well. I thought we kept them on their heels and we showed them we’re going to try to come in here and work – work for each other and work for the City of Buffalo and I really hope that went a long way with the fans and I’m really excited for the future. “
Granada announced that Colin Miller has exited COVID-19 protocol, though the defenseman did not practice with the team.
Miller has missed four games since entering protocol on March 27.
The Sabers host the Panthers on Sunday. Tickets are available here.
Coverage on MSG begins at 12:30 pm with puck drop set for 1. RJ and Rob Ray will be on the call.