(WGR 550) – After 18 season in the National Hockey League, Ryan Miller has announced his retirement.
Miller played 540 of his 794 career games with the Buffalo Sabres. Miller accumulated 284 of his 390 career wins in Buffalo, and is the winningest American-born goaltender in NHL history.
In Buffalo, Miller went 284-186-57, which is a points percentage of .593. His 11-year goals-against average in Buffalo was 2.58 with a .916 save percentage.
I always enjoyed covering Miller, because of how intelligent and intense he was. The fire to win always raged, and he could stand at his locker and talk about world events just as easily as he could talk hockey.
Miller was, of course, emotional during his announcement on Thursday.
“Hockey has been a true passion for me," Miller said during his Zoom press conference. "I was really drawn to goaltender as a position, I felt like that was the spot for me and it ended up exactly where I wanted to be and I’m luck I got to do it for so long.”
In my mind, Miller only ranks behind Dominik Hasek, Roger Crozier and Tom Barrasso in Sabres history. Following the 2009-10 season, Miller won the Vezina Trophy thanks to a career-best .929 save percentage in 69 games played.
“I appreciate the Sabres organization for giving me my start," Miller said. "Buffalo is always going to have a big part of my heart. I feel like I really grew up there. There were a lot of firsts in Buffalo, like taking that first step into the real world.”
When thinking about Western New York as a community that he was a large part of, it made him a little emotional again.
“I always felt like I owed something to Buffalo in a way," Miller said. "I always wanted to do right by the fans, and there was a big inspiration behind a lot of the work in the community and the charity. I felt like I was doing something I was very lucky to be doing, and Buffalo was allowing me to do it. So I should be trying to make Buffalo a better place by giving my time and attention that would just make the community rise up a little bit.”
Losing Tim Connolly to injury probably cost Miller and the Sabres the Stanley Cup in the 2005-06 season. He has many great memories from that team and two long playoff runs.
“In those years, there really was a vibe. We had a belief and it was a lot of fun," Miller recalled.
“I think the bond that we had, I think we brought a certain amount of energy that caught on with the group, and we got close and it will forever be something where I wish we would’ve gotten over that hump.”
That team had fans watching the game in the plaza, there were people at the ballpark, probably 30,000 people were downtown watching the game within, maybe, two miles of the arena. Miller knew they were connected to the fans.
“We had a great relationship with the city, and we enjoyed ourselves and enjoyed our time. There was nowhere else where we’d rather be than right where we were, and I hope for that for Buffalo in the future," Miller said. "I hope they can gather that kind of energy and gather that kind of team, where they have that vibe and have that feeling, because that would make me feel happy for sure.”
Athletes that play for the Buffalo Bills and Sabres know what it’s like around Western New York when the teams are winning. Miller felt that a lot.
“We felt like we could really do something with that energy, because it really does make a difference when you have fans in the building, fans who are following, fans who are pushing you and if you’re going to be in the NHL, that can really be a difference maker," he said. "If you’re able to get your energy right in the locker room, you have a group of players that want those big crowds, then Buffalo is an asset. That’s what they wanted, and we certainly appreciated it and we definitely knew all about it.
“We were surprised by some of it sometimes, because it felt like something that you weren’t likely to see in too many other places.”
This day was no surprise to Miller. He knew retirement was right around the corner.
“I kind of thought this year would probably be my last year, and I wanted to take the time to appreciate everything about the game," Miller said.
“It’s been a good year. I was able to just soak it in, and it felt like this was a good way to say goodbye so I could enjoy the moment.”
Miller could think the game and would spend time visualizing it before every start.
“I think the things I saw in the game and the way I see things just lined up, I consider myself lucky that I was able to do that," Miller said. "I think some people have a knack for things, and they might get close to that all aligning for them.”
Miller was a Sidney Crosby overtime goal from winning an Olympic gold medal for Team USA in 2010. After the tournament the Sabres were in Pittsburgh and the Penguins fans gave him a standing ovation screaming USA, USA!
“It was a nice moment," Miller recalled. "I guess you don’t really realize until you get there how big the Olympics can be, and I wasn’t fully prepared for that amount of attention. So it was quite nice and I appreciated the gesture. I know we had a bit of a rivalry going on with the [Pittsburgh] Penguins over the years, so it really is possible for Americans to set their difference aside once in awhile, so let's carry that forward into the future.”
Miller has some ideas of what he wants to do next, and he may not be done with the NHL.
“It’s been on my mind," Miller admitted. "I would love to stay connected to hockey. I have some ideas about what I’d like to be doing in the future, but I would like to get myself on a path where I can start contributing on the NHL level in player development. At some point, I’d like to be in some type of management position where I can use my experience to craft teams. I feel like I do have a bit of coaching inside me, but I don’t know if I’m ready for the coach’s schedule.”
Miller has never brought his young son to Buffalo, and he said that is going to change.
“The city has a big piece of my heart, and I’d like to definitely bring my son back and show him that this was a big part of dad’s life before you showed up. It’s important that you get to know a little bit about it, and I’d like to reconnect with some people there."
It is an absolute disgrace that the Sabres Hall of Fame has been allowed to fall out of existence. So many deserving players are waiting to be inducted like Miller, Rob Ray, Thomas Vanek, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Jason Pominville.
It’s high time to show those players how much the fans loved them and honor them for what they accomplished.
This year's Sabres team has some business on Thursday night in Boston against the Bruins.
Join Brian Koziol for the pregame at 6:40 p.m. ET when he'll be joined by Don Granato and Sam Reinhart.