Mayday! Rick Jeanneret signals NHL lockout distress

Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret is itching to get back behind the mic, if only the NHL and...

Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret is itching to get back behind the mic, if only the NHL and players could get the lockout over with. (MIKE DIBATTISTA/QMI Agency file photo)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:28 PM ET

Things to do during an extended NHL lockout: Build a house, earn an honorary degree and be inducted into three different Halls of Fame.

For most people, being able to check just half of those items off their list would make for a pretty satisfying winter. But despite hitting for the cycle, Rick Jeanneret still feels bored and unfulfilled.

He's a hockey man to his core, having spent 41 of his 70 years behind a Buffalo Sabres mic, and if there's no game, he's just not right.

"My career will always be defined by hockey," said the longest serving play-by-play man in the NHL. "And this bugs me. I don't have a lot of other things on my plate. I don't have any side jobs or hobbies.

"My wife and I are building a new home, which we will be moving to in about three weeks, and I've had a few other things to keep myself occupied throughout the whole period community-wise and with the various honours that were bestowed upon me, but I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

"This is not something I relish."

Being able to walk into a new home and hang an honorary degree from Canisius College, plaques from the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and a blazer from the Hockey Hall of Fame don't begin to fix what's wrong in his heart.

When you're in the autumn of your broadcasting days, you want to walk the leaves on your own terms, not those of a petulant commissioner and stubborn union leader.

"If they're not playing, there's not much you can do," sighed Jeanneret. "But overall it's been a wonderful career.

"I'm making it sound like it's over ... I guess it is over if they don't hurry up and start playing again."

Jeanneret doesn't know how much longer he'll be calling it like he sees it, only that 2012-13 was likely going to be his last full season before down-sizing his workload. Now, there probably wonıt be a season at all.

If there was ever a time to scream "Mayday!, Mayday!" this is it.

"After this year I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I think (I'll be back), but I don't know that it will be a full schedule. I guess we'll have to wait and see, play it by ear.

"I'm not making any plans, other than to get into this new house in three weeks and then have Christmas with all the grand kids. It's very short-term planning."

Planning around the NHL is a fool's game lately. Nobody, not players, owners, fans, advertisers or Hall of Fame broadcasters, knows where this league is going, but even if they do start up again, it's probably to late to save the game itself. Jeanneret knows from experience that if the NHL tries to cram in 50 or 60 games, it'll turn into an exhaustive assembly line of mediocrity.

"I went through the lockout in '94-95 with the truncated 48 game schedule and that wasn't pretty, I can remember that. We went from airport to arena to hotel to airport to arena to hotel. That's basically all you did for 48 games. It just wasn't very good hockey, either. Guys were just too tired."

And for what? That's the part that bothers everyone the most, that this is a simple matter of dividing a pile of money in half.

"I sat with Roy MacGregor (Globe and Mail Columnist and 2012 Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award winner) at the Hall of Fame ceremony and that's what we talked about: what is taking so long? they're not that far apart. Come on, let's do something.

"Last time they battled over something like this it was the salary cap issue. OK, that was a major departure, but this one isn't. It's over stinking money and they have $3.3-billion. Can't they figure out how to divvy that up? Get it over with."

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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