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Sabres Make Right Moves With Broadcast Team


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.

Buffalo Sabres

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.


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5 responses to "Sabres Make Right Moves With Broadcast Team"

  1. Rob says:

    Some notes while wondering what happened to Mike Dodd:

    I like the broadcast moves as Rob Ray has improved his on-air speaking to the point where he would be a much better color man than Harry Neale. The fact that Sylvester will no longer do play by play is a big win for all. He was terrible. Curious to see who will do the games that Jeanneret won’t do. I vote for Duff because…

    The more of Brian Duff the better. Great voice and on-air presence and that will be a big upgrade between periods from the bland Kevin Sylvester who added nothing in my opinion to the broadcast.

    Interesting that the 10am-noon Sabres show is starting in June. I guess for the Free Agent period it will be a good listen but how much Sabres and Bills talk can you discuss in a day? I was a fan of Cowherd’s show as well so I guess it’s satellite radio for me from 10-1. I’d rather see Rome gone as his act has gotten stale and his repeating of the same stories annoying. Ironic that Cowherd gets canned locally for a hockey show.

    Hopefully with the changes at GR on the programming side this will improve the quality of the 3-7 show with Schopp. It seems for years he has just gone through the motions admitting he doesn’t watch certain sports or even at times local games and would rather have coffee drafts. I think with a legend like Murph around and the focus on the Sabres mid-late morning this will elevate the stagnant shows surrounding these additions.

  2. Bob says:

    Neale is gone!!!!
    Who is going to be calling the 15 games that Jeanneret does not?
    And I would rather have Cowherd than the worn out Rome.

  3. Butch says:

    Neale is gone but I don’t expect Ray to add much insight. To me, he’s just a younger version of Neale with very little to add. Nice guy but out of his league as an alalyst.

  4. Still wondering who will call the 15 games that RJ will not … not established yet Mr. Pergament? No wonder you like Colin Cowherd … he is boastful, bombastic and thinks highly of himself. After reading your smug columns all these years, you two seem like peas in a pod. I don’t dislike Cowherd for his exclusion of sports outside the Big 3. I dislike him for his indifference toward his listeners in smaller-markets. We may not carry the weight that NY, LA, or Chicago, but he were listeners, too … you blowhard

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