It didn’t take long for Ryan Miller to get emotional during his retirement announcement. About a second or two, to be precise. But it’s also understandable that a player who gave so much of himself for his teams over his NHL career would be reflective – especially when the Anaheim Ducks rolled out a video presentation featuring Miller’s family, teammates and goalie coaches both past and present.
“Hockey has been a true passion for me, introduced to me by my family and my dad,” Miller said. “I was really drawn to the goaltender position…it felt like the spot for me. It ended up being exactly where I wanted to be and I was lucky to do it for so long.”
Nearly two decades in the NHL if you’re counting at home. Miller will finish this season with the Ducks, but the netminder wanted to make the announcement so he could take some time to enjoy and drink in his final campaign.
He retires as the winningest American-born goaltender in NHL history, with 390 victories and counting.
Coming from a massive hockey family, Miller first made a name for himself at Michigan State, where he dominated the college ranks as a Spartan and won the Hobey Baker Award as a sophomore in 2001. Only one other goalie has ever won the Hobey; Minnesota’s Robb Stauber back in 1988.
Drafted by the Sabres in the fifth round in 1999, Miller’s ascent made him Buffalo’s starter by 2005 and his stellar play in net helped the franchise to one of its best stretches ever. The Sabres made back-to-back conference finals in 2006 and 2007 and Miller would go on to win the Vezina Trophy in 2010. That year, he also made an impression internationally.
As Team USA’s starter at the Olympics, Miller was incredible. He earned tournament MVP honors and helped the Americans to silver, losing on Sidney Crosby’s golden goal for Canada. As more U.S. netminders come to the fore, Miller hopes he had a positive impact on the younger generation.
“I hope they look at it as something doable,” he said. “A skinny kid from Michigan was able to work on something and represent the country a couple times. My situation goes to show that with dedication, you can set your sights and accomplish something. If they’ve looked at me as inspiring, that makes me feel good.”
One of those American netminders is John Gibson, Anaheim’s current starter and Miller’s teammate for the past few years.
“Gibby’s one of the more natural goalies I’ve met,” Miller said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in that jersey again.”
Always an engaging interview, Miller put thought behind his answers – which is not a given for NHLers who are in front of the cameras nearly every day of the season. He clearly thought about the game a lot too and one memory he came back to was from his Buffalo days, working with goalie guru Jim Corsi and backup Jhonas Enroth on the reverse VH style, which was new at the time.
“That’s one part of my game I was proud of,” Miller said. “I was able to take different elements and evolve.”
While stepping away from the ice will give Miller time to be with his wife and family, he also expressed interest in staying in the game through a future role, perhaps in player development and eventually management.
“I’d like to use my experience to craft teams,” he said. “That’s something that interests me.”
Miller said he would miss the fans, whether it was the rabid supporters of the teams he played for or the fans on the road who heckled him. He also made sure to point out how no one gets to his position without a lot of help, likening himself to a race car driver who depends on the pit crew to put it all together with him. But it’s also clear he was born to be a goalie.
“Watching my son play hockey, you can see the personalities of the kids on the ice and how they approach the game,” he said. “That’s true for every level. My personality and the things I saw in the game drew me to goaltending. I thought I could make a difference back there. I consider myself lucky that I found something I really liked to do and my personality aligned with the position.”