Once again, it is time for The Interpreter to put some broadcasting issues in context.
Today’s subject is the Buffalo Sabres revamping of their broadcast team.
The big move announced Tuesday is dropping Harry Neale and having Rob Ray become solo as the TV and radio game analyst with play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret.
If you’ve been reading this blog or my previous work at The Buffalo News, you know I’m cheering the removal of Neale. I agree with just about all the Sabres moves.
Neale is a nice man and has a pleasant on-air demeanor but I thought he should have been replaced years ago because he barely says anything of significance or have any insight anymore. He’s just a good old boy who drops in occasional old humor.
In years past, the more direct and enthusiastic Ray hasn’t wanted to go on the road because he has a young family. But Sabres public relations man Mike Gilbert said that changed. Ray will remain on ice level between the benches as the analyst.
“He expressed his desire to do it full-time,” said Gilbert. “We were happy to have him.”
Neale will continue to work full time for the team. He has found a safe landing spot on the pre-game and intermission segments and also will do community relations work where his pleasant attitude and sense of humor will be an assist. He will be especially valuable as the Sabres try to establish themselves more in Canada, where Neale was a longtime analyst on CBC.
The other interesting move is having Brian Duff replace Kevin Sylvester as the host of the pregame, intermission and post-game reports. Duff had to give up his job at the NHL Network to join the Sabres. I’m a Sylvester fan but Duff is solid, too. Besides the move frees Sylvester to return to radio, where he did excellent work before joining the Sabres broadcast team. He will host a daily WGR show, “Sabres Hockey Hotline.” It will air Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to noon except during the Bills season. Then it will air from Tuesday through Friday to allow Bills talk on Mondays after Sunday games.
Sadly, that would appear to mean the end of Colin Cowherd on WGR. He is often bashed by WGR staffers but is one of my favorite sports talk hosts.
Sylvester will be the host of the morning show. His guests from the program at the Sabres store in First Niagara Center will occasionally include WGR’s Paul Hamilton, team executives, players, and people involved with the visiting team on game nights. He will also work on the team’s website and do television features.
The move also means that Sylvester will no longer do play-by-play when Jeanneret takes time off during the season. I wasn’t a fan of his play-by-play work and agree with the Sabres decision to use someone else. Jeanneret is expected to do about 65 games under terms of his new “multi-year contract.” In this case, I’m told that “multi-year” probably just means more than one year.
Mike Robitaille will remain in his role as pregame intermission and post-game analyst. He doesn’t go on road games, when there is little time to do a postgame show before signing off.
Finally, there is Danny Gare, who has varied roles including being the analyst on the games that Sylvester worked in place of Jeanneret. Like Neale, Gare will do community relations work. He also will appear on Sylvester’s show and write a blog for the Sabres website.
All the moves may sound like at least a partial response to the Bills plans to have a nightly show on WGR hosted by John Murphy starting July 26, the day after he leaves his Channel 4 job as sports director. But Gilbert said these plans were in the works before the Bills announced their plans and were part of a new Sabres deal made with WGR last year.
In any event, Sylvester’s show will give the Sabres equal radio time with Murphy’s show on the Bills.