Ryan Miller announces retirement after 18 seasons
Ryan Miller announced his retirement from the NHL on Thursday afternoon (Photo by The Associated Press)
BROCKPORT, N.Y. --- Current Anaheim Ducks and former Buffalo Sabres goaltender is calling it a career after the conclusion of this season. While the 40-year-old will never raise a Stanley Cup as a player, Miller has a lot to look back on during his 18 years of professional hockey.
Drafted in the fifth round of the 1999 NHL Draft, Miller chose to attend nearby Michigan State University instead of turning pro, just a three-minute walk from his hometown, East Lancing. It turned out to be a good decision, as Miller had a 73-18-12 record for the Spartans and was the CCHA Goaltender of the Year for all three seasons in East Lancing.
Once leaving after the 2002 season, Miller stepped into the crease for the Rochester Americans. In 47 games, Miller registered a 23-18-5 record for Buffalo's AHL Affiliate. While the Amerks lost in the first round of the Caulder Cup Playoffs, Miller continued to rise. The goaltender earned his first NHL start in a 4-3 OT loss on November 19, 2002, against the New Jersey Devils.
Miller continued to work on his craft in between the pipes for the Americans for the next handful of years. From 2003-2005, Miller established a 68-42-11 record in 123 games, as Rochester reached the Divisional and Conference Finals of the Caulder Cup Playoffs.
But once the 2005-2006 season rolled in, Miller locked up the starting goaltender position for the Sabres, a role he did not give up until the team traded him before the 2014 deadline.
While Miller did not leave the Sabres on his terms, the blue and gold are still deep inside him.
"Buffalo is always going to have a big part in my heart. I feel like I really grew up there, and I always felt like I owed something to Buffalo in a way," he said
And while in Buffalo, Miller was an advocate throughout the Buffalo community. He started the Steadfast Foundation in 2006, which focuses on benefiting people battling cancer, principally those with childhood forms of the disease. Also, Miller supported the Courage of Carly Fund at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
But his charitable impact on the city of Buffalo did not dissipate after his departure. Miller would still make trips to Roswell Park as a visiting player to raise money and brighten everyone's day.
Some of the memories are joyful, and others are heartbreaking. One of those was the magical 2006-2007 season where Buffalo reached the Conference Finals, only to be upset by the Ottawa Senators in five games.
But while the loss may still sting, Miller still remembers the special connection he had with his teammates.
"We had a belief, and it was a lot of fun. It was funny, as we built our confidence bit by bit and brought a certain kind of energy that caught on with the group of veterans who were very dedicated to the game," Miller said.
With Buffalo not bringing home any Stanley Cups during Miller's time in the net, the East Lansing native earned something more on one of the biggest stages of professional hockey: respect.
In the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Miller played out of his mind. At the time, the 29-year-old surrendered only five goals during the qualifying round. Three of those came from Team Canada in a 5-3 win for Team USA.
Ryan Miller became a superstar during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver (Photo by Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press)
Miller was on top of the world, and many saw him as the leader of the best USA Hockey team since the 1980 Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid. However, Canada got the last laugh, winning 3-2 in the Gold Medal match.
Walking away from the podium with a silver medal, Miller earned the respect of hockey fans around the world. And the first game after the Olympics finished that Miller played in was in Pittsburgh, and he got a louder roar than Sidney Crosby, who scored the game-winner for Canada in overtime.
Looking back, Miller knows the occasion was special.
"I guess you do not realize until you get there how big the Olympics can be. I wasn't fully prepared for that amount of attention. I guess it's possible for Americans to set their differences aside every once in a while," he said.
While Miller is hanging the skates up, his laundry list resume is something to consider. Currently, he is the leader in career wins by a United States-born goaltender (390) and is first-all time in games played by a Sabres goaltender (540). Also, he is a Vezina Trophy winner (2009-2010) and has an Olympic silver medal.
But while the hall of fame debate can continue later, Miller rides off into the sunset as one of the best goaltenders of all time. And to end his presser, Miller signed off to the media in a specific fashion.
"I will see you around the rinks. I just will not be in the crease," Miller said.
While we will never see Ryan Miller in goal after the season is over, Buffalo fans will still remember the good times with their adopted brother for years to come.