I recently called Sabres broadcaster Harry Neale at his home to discuss why he chose to live in Western New York even though he didn’t work here until more than 20 years after buying his home.
The announcer was more than receptive to my on-the-spot interview request, but he wouldn’t let me hang up without assisting me in my line of questioning.
“You can’t go until you ask me how I liked working with Rick Jennearet,” he said of his partner in the Sabres broadcasting booth, prompting me to make that very query. “You’re always wondering how you’re going to mesh with a play-by-play man. With Jennearet, from day one, it was enjoyable.”
Neale was talked into living here by several former NHL players who settled in the region after retiring. He and several other sports figures interviewed for my story said the people were a big factor in their decision, as was the cost of living. Especially for someone like Neale, who worked in Toronto before getting the Sabres job, those paychecks stretched more here.
Former Sabres coach Scotty Bowman also cited Western New York’s medical community as a reason he and his family stayed. The help his son received from the time they moved to East Amherst in 1979 was impeccable, he said.
“The services that we got for our handicapped son … he’s been well taken care of,” Bowman said. “Medical-wise, it’s been very strong.”
Bowman also appreciated the relative lack of traffic compared to other places he’s worked such as Montreal and Detroit.
“It’s a very friendly city. It’s very easy to get around in. You don’t spend all day in your car trying to get to where you’re trying to go,” he said.
Former Bills safety Mark Kelso was quick to defend the weather, saying the frequent snowfall was in some ways an attraction rather than deterrent.
“I think it’s pretty darn good weather. My kids enjoy skiing and sledding,” he said.
More so than natives to the area, Bowman said, those who come here later in life appreciate what WNY has to offer.
“It’s a good, mid-America lifestyle,” he said. “I think when people get there, they don’t want to leave.”
Visit here to see my original, longer story on pro sports figures who settle in Buffalo/Niagara.