“Paul Cyr crosses over the Hartford blue line and lets a shot go…wow, what a save by Liut who got his waffle on the blistering slap shot deflecting the puck over the glass and into the crowd. It looks like a really special fan and mother of three from Hamburg, New York, will take a puck home to one of her children… A nice save by Mike Liut resulting in a very special night for a very special fan who catches a game puck. It was a splendid catch by a splendid fan from the south-town villages. We will be right back with more Sabres hockey here on the Empire Sports Network.”

Fans always reference Rick Jeanneret as a legendary play-by-play caller even though he has reduced his active games considerably. He travels less and avoids games that come in quick succession. Dan Dunleavy picks up the rest of the slack and is a darn good announcer in his own right. However, RJ is in a class all his own. Often, fans would turn down the TV volume and tune in to the radio coverage to listen to RJ calling the games.

With that said, folks may not realize that the quotations above are not from the legend RJ, known for “May Day”, “Call the Cops”, and “Ooh la la Pierre”, but from another Sabres play-by-play legend, Ted Darling.

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The late Ted Darling handled the TV coverage as Jeanneret voiced the radio broadcast. When a game was not televised, Darling took over radio duties as RJ got an unwanted day off. So once upon a time, RJ took a back seat to Darling whose style was not like the overly energetic Jeanneret. Darling did not scream like his hair was on fire. Darling was so very fast and accurate. He anticipated plays far quicker than most in the business and was able to adapt to whoever was calling a game with him.

Darling was smooth, fast and accurate. During the blizzard of 1977, he did play-by-play of a game from his home while watching it on TV. Far beyond its time. He was born in Kingston Ontario, home of the Tragically Hip and Dan Aykroyd. His sense of humour was second to none but very subtle. His tradition of pretending he knew every fan at home games who caught a puck or even if the camera zoomed in on fans was priceless.

Eventually, Darling had to step away for health-related reasons. He retired in 1991 and sadly passed away in 1996 due to Pick’s Disease. Upon retiring, he was replaced with the underwhelming John Gurtler. Gurtler was not the best play-by-play guy although he excelled at other parts of the broadcast. As the saying goes, “You don’t want to be the guy who replaces a legend. You want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the legend.”

This eventually led to the Sabres combining both the television and radio broadcast and it gave RJ the keys to the castle. And deservedly so. Gurtler moved on to excel as the Bandits play by play announcer as well as continue to use his voice for many other jobs such as announcing the stats between plays at Bills games and the pickup truck commercials. Unfortunately, he just was uninspiring while covering a fast-paced NHL team.

Things we know about the Buffalo Sabres this week:

  • Jason Botterill has made it clear he is not done making roster moves. He will keep going as long as there are ways to add talent and mold this team in to a four-line contributing team. I declare in the words of the legendary Lloyd Christmas, “I like it a-lot”.
  • Sabres Fan Fest is upon us for the golden anniversary. It will be in Alumni Plaza from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 17. Strictly Hip will hands down just rock the event as they play Tragically Hip classic songs as good as any cover band could dream of. Many current Sabres and Alumni will be there signing autographs. Food and drinks will obviously be easily accessible. Two final words to close out my plug for this awesome event. BUBBLE HOCKEY. Game on.

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