Kevan Miller was named the Bruins' nominee for the Masterton Trophy -- which goes to the NHL player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey" -- last week.
On a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday, Miller discussed the nomination for the first time and opened up about the toll his knee injuries have taken.
Miller hasn't played since April of last season, when he suffered a broken kneecap. He tried to get back in time to contribute to the Bruins' playoff run, only to re-break the kneecap while rehabbing. The road didn't get a whole lot smoother after that, as he suffered several more setbacks during his recovery, the most recent of which forced him to undergo another surgery -- his fourth total -- in March that effectively ended any hope of returning before the end of this season.
"First I’d just like to say thank you to all who voted for me for (the Masterton)," Miller said. "Honestly it’s a true honor, and I truly appreciate the nomination and I’m hoping to persevere and live up to that nomination and be back on the ice, whenever that may be. I’m very, very thankful and grateful for all the support, my family, my teammates, the organization has given me through all this.
"It’s been a long haul. It’s taken a toll for sure. Mentally, physically, it’s definitely taken a toll. It’s been a long road, but I’m trying to keep things in perspective. I’m able to walk around and spend some time with family and starting to exercise again and starting to feel a little bit somewhat normal again. I’m hoping to get back to 100 percent and rejoin the team at some point and get back to playing hockey."
Miller said he hasn't gotten to a point where he's ever thought about giving up and not playing again, but he acknowledged that the mental toll at times has been even tougher to overcome than the physical one, and he said that might be the tougher hurdle to clear when it ultimately comes time to play again.
"I think the biggest mental challenge for me is just getting healthy between the ears," Miller said. "It’s taken some toll on me for sure. There’s physical trauma, there’s also mental trauma. I’ll be honest with you about that. I think the mental side of it for me is just like, ‘Hey, I’m not injured anymore. That year and four months, year and five months, whatever it’s been, is now behind me.’ Feeling 100 percent again is probably going to feel pretty abnormal to me right now, so I think that’s probably going to be the biggest challenge."
Miller said there's also been a mental toll as it relates to raising a family. His daughter turned two in December, just after Miller had undergone another procedure on his knee, and his wife gave birth to their son in January.
"It’s less of a worry of ‘Are things going to be OK’ or things like that. It’s more, there is an actual connection between physical trauma and mental trauma," Miller said. "When you have an injury and it persists this long, it takes a toll between your ears. We had our son, he was born in January. I had a procedure at the beginning of December.
"So my wife’s pregnant, and we also have a two-year-old daughter, and a son on the way, and here I am on crutches struggling to get around. My wife has our son. It’s tough to be there for your kids when you’re not able to really do as much as you would like. Be there for your wife, be there for your kids, be present, those are the types of things. It’s beyond just the actual physical trauma, but the trauma of there’s a lot going on on my side with my family, and that takes a toll. I’m at the point now where I can certainly help around the house a lot more and do more of that, and that’s one of the big aspects for me personally. That was the hardest thing to overcome."
Miller is an unrestricted free agent after this season, and obviously all these injuries and missing a whole season leave him in a tough situation in terms of his next contract, but Miller said he's not even thinking about that right now.
"To be honest with you, I haven’t had any discussions with my agent," Miller said. "I’m sure my agent has had discussions w