PENSultimate Interview – Kevin Miller
If one were to build a franchise, they would look to take a player like Kevin Miller down the middle. At 5’11 and 190 pounds, Miller possessed enough speed and strength to make himself a valuable asset to each and every team he laced up with. His career spanned nearly two decades and included stops with nine NHL teams: New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks, and Washington Capitals, appearing in 620 games, posting 335 Points (150 Goals, 185 Assists). That does not include his stops in the IHL, AHL, Swiss and UHL leagues, where he was an active contributor, further proving, just why he can be considered one of the finest two-way centers to play the game of hockey in the past 20 years.
Here is our digital conversation with Mr. Miller.
Your father was part owner of an arena in Lansing. Were you able to jump on the ice whenever you wanted? and were you involved in the upkeep/maintenance of the property?
“Yes, it was great having access to the rink. We all worked at the rink and skated as much as we could. Some nights we would be on the ice at midnight playing keep away.”
After the 1983 Draft, did you intensify or accelerate any facets of your development/game, in an attempt to make sure teams took notice of you the next season?
“I was drafted very late so that was not my focus. My focus was on my freshman year and being ready to play regular and help the team win.”
Can you share your memories from the days leading up to/including the 1984 draft?
“I had goals set for playing in college, the Olympics, and the NHL. My goals were to train hard every day. The draft was nice but not important to me at that time. Attaining goal number one was my priority.”
Given the storied history of the Rangers, did it add another layer of excitement for you being selected by them?
“Being drafted by the Rangers was Great, but I still had to get a lot better to ever have a chance of reaching it to the NHL. I had to get stronger and faster. Those are two things I worked on.”
What do you remember about your 1st NHL game at MSG and scoring your 1st goal on Clint Malarchuk?
“I was called up while on Christmas Break and back in Michigan. I did not have my equipment or sticks and had been off for three days. I flew to Washington and my Denver trainers sent my bag and sticks. My sticks did not arrive so I had to use Guy LaFleur’s sticks, who is a legend and I had never met. I was so nervous just to meet him, yet ask if I could use a stick. I sat on the bench for 2 periods and then finally got the nudge to go out for a shift. We had a play in Washington’s end and the defense got the puck. I went to the net and the shot just happened to hit my stick and go in. First shift, first shot and I was in the books. Pretty cool.”
Were there any veterans on the roster at the time that provided you with guidance and what was one of the best pieces of advice you ever received from a teammate?
“All the guys were great. I still have friends from that team. Ron Greshner, James Patrick, John Vanbiesbrouck, and Brian Mullen were all great and always there to look out for me, but I also had to be aware of being pranked. They liked to have fun with you, but also looked out for you.”
What did it mean to you on a personal/professional level when you had the opportunity to suit up for the Red Wings?
“It was a mixed feeling. I loved coming home to play for the Red Wings who I grew up watching and dreaming of playing there, but it was also sad to be leaving the Rangers and their great fans.”
In terms of your time with the Penguins, can you share any special memories from the ice/ locker room and/or city?
“The Penguins were great. The team was loaded with talent and played a very fun, fast style. The fans were great and very passionate. I wish that team would have stayed healthy because I think we were strong enough to win a Stanley Cup. I Loved playing with Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Ron Francis.”
You came within one win of making it to the Stanley Cup Final with the Penguins, if you had to sum up the series vs the Florida Panthers in one sentence, what would it be?
“We really just needed one timely goal in Game 6 or 7 and we would have moved on, but Vanbiesbrouck was in a zone and was not letting much in, and having Francis would have been the difference I think.”
You had the opportunity to represent the USA at the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary, how would that experience compare to the other international tournaments you competed in (World Cup, World Championships, National Team), and what is your opinion on NHL players participating in the Olympics?
“I really enjoyed my Olympic experience. It happened so quick it was hard to take in the whole experience. We did not do the opening or closing ceremonies. I loved every time I put on the USA jersey and always took a lot of pride in representing my country. As for NHL or college players playing in the Olympics, it would be very exciting either way. As long as it is same for all countries. Back when we were 18-21-year olds playing against Russia who was 25-35-year old pros it was very tough, which is why the ’80 Olympic Team Gold Medal is so Awesome.”
“The team was loaded and they were all good enough to play in the NHL. The biggest difference was how strong they were. [It was] Very hard to budge them or knock them off their skates.”
How was making the transition from player to civilian for you? What does your present career find you doing?
“I started to prepare for life after hockey in 1998 while playing with Chicago. I had an injury that I was not sure I would rebound from so I got Series 7 licensed and started learning the financial industry. When I got healthy I kept working in the fixed income sector building up a client base. Once I retired I just started to going to the office full time. I now own Kevin Miller Financial Services and I am a certified financial planner. I also coach youth hockey and run power skating camps in the spring and summer. I started coaching girls hockey because my daughter wanted to play. She plays on my 19U team, the Lansing Spartans, and I believe we will have nine girls go play hockey in college next year. That is very rewarding for me.”
Most painful injury?
“So many and none of them fun.”
First Hockey Memory?
“Loved all the pickup hockey in the basement, street or late night at the ice rink.”
Fiercest competitor faced?
“Every game there are fierce competitors and tough competition. You can’t take a shift off.”
Most underrated teammate?
“Don McSween. [He] Didn’t look natural on the ice, but such a competitor and so smart. He was a late recruit and ended up being All-American and 3-year captain. [He] Also made it to NHL.”