Miller’s love of the game paves the way for the USA Hockey Hall of Fame

“It never occurred to me that I should stop playing hockey, like ever,” he said with a laugh. “I wanted to find ways to keep going. That goes back to minor hockey. I just kept wanting to play, play, play.”

Maybe that explains him though.

Miller comes from a hockey family. He loves the game down to the smallest detail and is competitive, intelligent and focused. It stays in the moment.

This helped him win 391 NHL games, the record for goaltenders born in the United States. Vezina Trophy in 2009-10, when voted the NHL’s top goaltender. and a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, when he led the United States to overtime in the final against Canada and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

He will be inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday with Steve Cash, Jim Johannson, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando.

Asked what he hopes his legacy will be, Miller said he hopes to be remembered for the way he approached the game, wanted to be his best every night and tried to be a good teammate. Then he added the following:

“I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to do what I loved so much and to do it so many times,” he said. “I have to lace up my skates a lot and I’ve always enjoyed it. If people could perceive that, I hope that would be the inspiring part of it.

“I loved playing, and I loved competing, and I hope they enjoyed that part of watching. I hope I pushed and raised the bar a little bit because that’s what everyone before me did.”

Born in East Lansing, Michigan, Miller is one of 10 members of his family to play for his hometown university, Michigan State, and one of five to go on to the NHL. As his cousin Kip Miller did in 1990, he won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in NCAA men’s hockey in 2001. The NCAA record for career shutouts (26) stood for 20 years until Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay overtook him in October. 30, 2021.

After playing primarily for Rochester of the American Hockey League from 2002-05, Miller became the No. 1 goaltender for the Buffalo Sabers from 2005-14.

“I feel like I made my own way in Buffalo and I really grew up there with my teammates,” Miller said. “He holds a special place in my heart.

“Our teams were extremely talented. I was fortunate enough to play with some tremendous players who were motivated to succeed, and everything just clicked. We had a great team. We all had confidence and worked for it.

“The time in Buffalo is really the peak.”

Miller set Buffalo records for games played by a goaltender (540) and wins (284). The Sabers won the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top regular-season team in 2006-07, the second consecutive season they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. His No. 30 will be retired at KeyBank Center on Jan. 19.

“He was really the backbone, because they had the offensive talent, and then he was in net making sure those guys could move around and do their thing,” the Chicago Blackhawks forward said. Patrick Kanewho grew up in Buffalo, played against Miller in the NHL and played with him for the United States.

At 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Miller used his frame to his advantage.

“He was big in net,” Kane said. “He knew how to get a lot of space. You really had to make him move or make him second-guess at times because if he just took a direct shot, it was hard to score on him.”

When Miller won the Vezina in 2009-10, he went 41-18-8 with a 2.22 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and five shutouts. His 41 wins accounted for all but four of Buffalo’s wins that season and remain the Sabres’ single-season record.

“This is another guy who was a really good competitor, who played the game the right way,” said Hall of Fame hockey goaltender Martin Brodeur, who faced Miller with the New Jersey Devils. “It was always a tough game when we played Buffalo because they weren’t going to give up a lot.”

Miller went 5-1-0 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .946 save percentage in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. After five straight wins — including a 5-3 victory against Canada in the qualifying round — he made 36 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss to Canada in the final.

“Being a competitor, it’s still hard to accept that we came this far and we couldn’t [to] take home the gold,” Miller said. “But there’s a good feeling about the guys on this team and what we’ve accomplished.

“We were definitely not favored in the tournament. It was supposed to be a transition year for USA Hockey. We had some of the old guard, but we had some young guys. I thought we came together as a team and just went for it and I had a lot of fun I did.”

Miller went on to play for the United States in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the St. Louis Blues in late 2013-14, then the Vancouver Canucks from 2014-17 and the Anaheim Ducks from 2017-21.

“I think we’re very similar, the way we’ve played for so long at a high level,” said Hall of Fame hockey goaltender Roberto Luongo, Miller’s foil in the 2010 Olympic final. “I think consistency is what made him great. Every year he’s always put up good numbers, and that’s hard to do.”

Towards the end of his career, Miller would stay on the ice with young forwards like the Ducks Max Comtois and Trevor Zegras. They would go through situations, work on breakaways, whatever. Miller said it was a good deal: they would learn. it would be fun.

“I loved putting the skates on, even just practicing and messing around,” Miller said. “Whenever I could get on the ice, it was a blast.”

Miller retired after the 2020-21 season, but in August, at age 42, he got the itch. Some guys were in Anaheim for practice, and he let them know he wanted to scratch the itch if they needed a goaltender. Sure enough, he ended up putting the pads back on.

“It was a nice scratch because I had some fun,” Miller said. “It also reminded me that it takes a lot of hard work to be at a high level.”

Miller lives in California with his wife, Noureen DeWulf, and their son, Bodhi, 7, and daughter, Kaia, 7 months. One day, he might want a role with an NHL team. For now, he has found another way to continue. In his second season as a consultant to the NHL’s hockey operations department, he provides insight into many areas, including goaltending.

“There are things that happen every night that we want to be consistent with as we go through the season so that the playoffs flow smoothly and everybody knows what the pattern is,” said Miller, who will work this season and go from there. “It’s not the same as stopping the elves, but it’s still a good way to bond.”

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