FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: In the second installment of a series featuring the television and radio broadcasters of the Los Angeles Kings, the Voice of the Kings, Bob Miller, shared his thoughts on the Kings winning the Stanley Cup, its impact, and what it all means to him.
LOS ANGELES — After 39 years behind the microphone, calling the action for the Los Angeles Kings—the first 17 years on radio and television (simulcast), and for the last 21 years, exclusively on television, the Voice of the Kings, Bob Miller, has finally been able to add the one thing that was missing on his resume…
…calling the action for a Stanley Cup Championship team.
Indeed, when the Kings won the first Stanley Cup Championship in the 45-year history of the franchise on June 11, 2012, defeating the New Jersey Devils, 6-1, to win the 2012 Stanley Cup Final in six games, Miller’s biggest concern was finally laid to rest: that he would retire, and the next season, the Kings would win the Stanley Cup.
“It was getting down to where I was honestly thinking, how many more years am I going to [work], and I’m never going to see [the Kings win the Stanley Cup]? Now I have,” Miller told Frozen Royalty in an exclusive interview.
As it has been for everyone in the Kings organization, this summer has been very, very different, with the Stanley Cup traveling around Southern California and the world with Kings players, coaches, management and staff.
“It has been [a very different summer],” Miller noted. “Very enjoyable. But [there has been such] increased demands on your time, not that I’m complaining. I don’t think any of us are complaining, because it’s been so much fun. ‘Can you be here with the Cup? Can you be there with the Cup?’”
“It’s what we’ve all waited for, all our lives,” Miller added. “[My wife, Judy] and I were going to our fourth or fifth Cup party, and I said, ‘are we going to go to every one of these Cup parties?’ We looked at each other and said, ‘yes we are! We’re going to every one of them!’”
“It’s just been so much fun, and yet, I can see now what they mean by the Stanley Cup hangover. When it really came home to me was two days after we won the Cup—the schedule for the next season came out. Usually, we’re waiting months for that. I said, ‘holy cow!’”
Looking back on that historic night in June, Miller lamented a delayed opportunity.
“Jimmy and I were doing the post-game show, and then Patrick O’Neal came up and said, ‘hey, they want you on the ice,’” Miller explained. “So he took over the post-game show, and Jim and I went down on the ice. By the time we got there, all the players had gone.”
“My wife said that Dustin Brown was looking for [me],” Miller elaborated. “‘Where’s Bob? I want to give him the Cup.’ But he was gone by then.”
Unlike the media, who were not allowed into the Kings dressing room after the game, Miller was able to join the team’s celebration, but not without a bit of difficulty.
“I did get in the locker room, but they weren’t letting media in the locker room, so when I went to go in there, I didn’t show them my Kings staff credential,” said Miller. “I showed them the Stanley Cup [credential].”
Staples Center security, as instructed, were denying media access to the dressing room, and even though Miller is so well-known, and has the Staples Center press box named after him, apparently, security staff had no idea who he was.
Miller managed to bypass security by entering through another door.
“Somebody else from the NHL said, ‘Bob, go through the trainer’s room,’ so I went through [there], and into the locker room,” he noted. “They were all spraying champagne around, and of course, I got hit right in the face. I could not open my eyes. Then, I heard the players [saying], ‘Bob, you’ve got to have a drink out of the Cup.’ They’re bringing it over, and I still couldn’t see. I got some champagne in my mouth, and the rest came all the way down the front [of his suit]. It was great to be in there and see them have that celebration.”
After the dressing room celebration, the Kings hosted a party for the team and Kings staff in the San Manuel Club on the Suite Level, where Brown finally found Miller.
“At the [team] party, Dustin Brown came up, and he had the Cup,” Miller recalled. “He said to me, ‘I’ve been looking for you for two hours.’ That’s when we got to hold it up. It was nice. Judy was there, our son and daughter [were there]. They’ve been going to games since we moved here when they were seven and five years old, so it had a lot of meaning to them.”
“I don’t think we got home until 2:30 in the morning,” Miller added. “We weren’t in a hurry to get home.”
Days later, the fact that the Kings had won the Stanley Cup still had not sunk in.
“I think, for the next three days, we’d wake up every morning, look at each other, and say, ‘did we really see that? Did that really happen,’ especially [given that] midway through the season, we thought, ‘that’s not going to happen,’” said Miller. “Even to the last week [of the regular season], when you get the eighth seed, you think, ‘OK, maybe we can get by the first round.’”
“It’s still, sometimes, ‘I can’t believe it happened.’”
Three days later, Miller and his wife found themselves riding down Figueroa Street in grand style, aboard one of the double decker buses carrying the Kings during their Stanley Cup parade on June 14 in Downtown Los Angeles, where an estimated 250,000 lined the streets, joining in the celebration.
“[Before the Kings won the Stanley Cup], I was thinking that I’ll never see a Kings parade,” said Miller. “You’d sit here for years and years, watching other teams have their Stanley Cup parade, I always thought, ‘when’s our turn? Why can’t we do this?’ Carolina, Tampa Bay, Anaheim [had all won the Cup]. For years, I was thinking, ‘these teams aren’t much better than we are. How are they winning Cups, and we’re not there?’”
“So I’m riding on the bus, and I’m looking at the throngs of people on both sides of Figueroa Street, then we turn the corner around Staples Center, what was going through my mind was that this was what all of us had waited so many years for,” added Miller. “It was fun. You’d see certain people. They’d yell, ‘hey Bob,’ and you’d recognize them.”
Miller also noted the decorum exhibited by fans that day.
“I was so proud that Kings fans showed the world that you can celebrate a championship without vandalism, destruction, rioting, or anything like that,” he said. “I had a chance, on July 4, in a parade, to talk to [one of] the Deputy Mayors of Los Angeles. She said that the police said it was the best crowd they’ve ever been around.”
“When they told people to move back a little bit, they did exactly what they [were told],” he added. “There was absolutely no problem. The police weren’t looking to arrest people. Everybody just had a great time.”
After the parade, Miller served as master of ceremonies for the celebration/rally at Staples Center, which was packed to capacity.
“The rally afterwards was great, to see everybody have a chance to be at Staples Center and cheer again,” Miller beamed. “The other thing was, when I was walking into [the arena], they were replaying Jim and myself [calling] the game [synchronized with the video of the game on the scoreboard]. The great thing was, when we’d score, they blew the [goal] horn in the building. It wasn’t on the tape, and everybody was screaming again.”
As most readers of this story probably know, Miller and Fox were forced out of the broadcast booth after the first round of the playoffs due to NBC’s television contract with the National Hockey League, granting them exclusive rights to broadcast all playoff games after the first round.
Frozen Royalty will have more on that later in this series. But during the rally, Miller got a surprise from Kings captain Dustin Brown.
After making his remarks, thanking fans for their support, Brown returned to his seat at center ice, but immediately jumped back up, and returned to the podium.
“What really surprised me was, I see Dustin jump up again, and [he wants] the mic, and I thought, ‘what’s going on here?’ Then, what he said, it was so nice.”
“This has been an unbelievable experience,” Brown said after returning to the podium. “The only thing that wasn’t perfect about this whole situation was [not] having this guy right here call the game.”
At that point, everyone on the ice, and everyone in the stands, rose to their feet, applauding and cheering loudly, in honor of Miller.
“That’s the only thing that was missing from this whole thing, having Bob and Jim call the game,” Brown added. “Everything’s been perfect except for [not] having this guy call the game.”
“Judy was sitting in the stands, and she said, ‘I just started crying,’” said Miller. “My son wrote a really nice e-mail—I didn’t know he was going to do it—to Dustin Brown, saying thank you for what you said about my Dad.”
“I’m very appreciative of what he said.”
Miller has noticed a new level of maturity and leadership from Brown this past season.
“Brown is so quiet during the season,” Miller noted. “I didn’t talk to him a lot. He’s not one who gets on the bus and says, ‘how ‘ya doin’?’ Other players do that, like [center Jarret] Stoll, and some other guys. Luc [Robitaille] was always upbeat. ‘Hey! What’s going on?’”
“Brown [kept] to himself all the time, so that surprised me a little bit, especially ‘where’s Bob? I want to hand him the Cup on the ice,’” Miller added. “That really touched me. I just wish I had been down there at the time.”
One bit of evidence that Brown has really grown into the position of team captain is that he has taken the time to get to know Kings staff beyond those in the dressing and training rooms, and he has made the effort to learn about the history of the franchise, something a lot of NHL players ignore.
“There are so many players on so many teams who don’t know [the history of their franchise],” said Miller. “They don’t know—’what did this guy ever do, how long has he been here?’ But I see that from Brown. He knows Jennifer Pope, [Manager, Community Relations and Kings Care Foundation], and what everybody else in the organization is doing.”
“That’s part of being a captain, not only knowing the guys in the locker room, but what’s the support group out here that we have,” added Miller.
A couple of weeks later, Miller hosted a party for 180 people, who all got a chance to take a photograph with the Stanley Cup.
“We were going to have it at our house, with some neighbors and friends, and the list got to be ninety people, and I said, ‘I don’t think we can have it here,’ Miller noted. “So we had a room at the Braemar Country Club [in Tarzana, California]. 180 people showed up. We had it for four hours, and that was long enough. We just appreciated getting it.”
“It was so much fun to see the reaction of people when they see the Cup,” Miller added. “They’re just so excited to get their picture taken with it, and that’s the great thing about the Cup. It’s so accessible to fans. No other trophy [is made available to fans].”
“Fans came up to me asking, ‘can I touch it?’ I said, ‘yeah, you can touch it.’ They asked. ‘Can I kiss it?’ I replied, ‘yeah, you can kiss it.”
But then came the punch line…
“We’re giving free tetanus shots in the back of the room,” Miller joked. “I said to someone, ‘I don’t know which has got more DNA on it, the Stanley Cup, or the Blarney Stone. I’ve kissed both of’em.’”
“Everybody had a great time,” Miller added. “What would happen was, you’d invite a couple, and the next day, they’d call and ask, ‘can my Mom and Dad come, and my brother, his wife, and their kids?’ So, all of a sudden, the ninety people goes up to 180. But it was fun. It was just fun for me to see the reaction, and not only at our party, but any party we go to, to see that reaction when people see the Cup.”
“Jimmy was there, and [radio play-by-play announcer] Nick [Nickson] and [radio color commentator] Daryl [Evans], even though they’re going to have the Cup on their own, and they’ve invited us. We had [former general manager and Kings right wing] Dave Taylor, and [former assistant athletic trainer] John Holmes. We had Marcia Galloway, who was the secretary in the office, Donna Moskal, the stage manager on [Kings television broadcasts], and her family were there. We didn’t do a lot of alumni, because we weren’t sure who was going to get the Cup, and when the guest list was almost getting out of hand, we thought, ‘we’ve got to end this, somewhere.’”
As the Kings general manager from April 22, 1997 through April 18, 2006, Taylor began the process of building the team by retaining first round draft picks, rather than trading them away year after year for big name players who were in the twilight of their careers who would go on to contribute almost nothing to the Kings.
Taylor, who is also responsible for the selection of Brown, star center Anze Kopitar and star goaltender Jonathan Quick in the NHL Entry Draft, is currently Vice President, Hockey Operations, for the St. Louis Blues.
“We said we wanted a picture, and [Taylor] said, ‘I will take a picture, but I will not touch the Cup,’ so he consented to have his picture taken, but he never touched the Cup,” said Miller. “He said, ‘I’ll touch it when the Blues win it.’”
“We felt that he should’ve been there,” added Miller. “He deserved it. I can understand [his feelings with] the superstition [about not touching the Cup until your team has won it]. It was fun. It was a great night.”
Given how so many Kings fans idolize him, just about everyone at the party wanted a photo with the Stanley Cup and Miller.
“I told my wife, ‘I’m not going to hang around by the Cup, or I’ll be there all night long,’ if people want a picture with the Cup with me in it,” Miller explained. “We had a long line of people. We had drinks and hors d’oeuvres, because it was 8:00 at night. As I made my way to the back of the room, someone would holler, ‘Bob, don’t go very far! We want you in our picture!’ Finally, I stayed up there, and my wife came up and said, ‘you’re doing exactly what you said you wouldn’t do! You weren’t going to stand up here!’ But they all said, ‘come here, come here! You’ve got to be in our picture.’”
“That was enjoyable,” Miller elaborated. “I kind of figured that might happen, and it wasn’t like people would get just one picture. It [was], ‘me and my wife, now one with me, now one with my wife, now we want you in this one.’ A family would come up, and there would be four or five pictures being taken.”
Speaking of Kings alumni, although few attended his Stanley Cup party, several have called Miller, making a point to congratulate him, in particular.
“Right afterwards, I heard from a lot of the Kings alumni,” said Miller. “[Former backup goaltender Gary] “Cobra” Simmons, and others who would call and say, ‘congratulations, I’m glad.’ A lot of them were so nice, and a lot of the fans, too, in saying, ‘I was happy for you, Bob, that they won it.’ I was happy for everybody. Cobra Simmons was like that, and so was Marcel Dionne.”
“I got calls from broadcasters from other teams, like the San Jose Sharks,” added Miller. “Chuck Kaiton in Carolina. They won it [in 2006]. He’s a good friend of mine. He replaced me in Wisconsin when I left there. Dave Goucher with the Boston Bruins, Nate Greenberg, who was the Bruins PR guy for a long time. It was great to hear from all of them. It was very nice of them to do that.”
Like so many of the Kings alumni who made it a point to congratulate Miller, a considerable number of fans and others told Miller during the playoffs that they wanted the Kings to win the Stanley Cup for him.
But that is not what Miller had in mind.
“I don’t want to say that they should’ve won it for me because I’ve been there 39 years,” he stressed. “There are other people, fans who were there from day one. There’s still about 100 original season ticket holders still around, something like that. So many of those fans have devoted much of their lives to supporting the Kings, being there and buying tickets. I wanted everybody to enjoy this moment that we thought we might never, ever see. That, to me, was what was so great.”
“The fans, who, year after year, buy the season tickets, and they’re disappointed and upset that we didn’t do better, now, they get to really celebrate this championship.”
Miller also thought about another individual who would have been proud of what the Kings finally accomplished, their original owner, the late Jack Kent Cooke.
“I’ve thought a lot about Mr. Cooke, who gave me a chance to come here 39 years ago,” Miller said during the on-ice celebration after Game 6. “He would be the proudest person in the building right now, because he always knew that he was going to build this team, and someday, they were going to win a championship. I think he really believed that. He probably didn’t think it would take this long, but he would be extremely happy.”
“His love was the Kings,” Miller added on August 29. “After he suffered through enough years of mediocrity, and [the team] not playing very well, and not winning anything, I think he would’ve been overjoyed.”
What would Cooke have said?
“What a marvelous job the boys have done,” said Miller, doing his best Cooke imitation.
“I was looking back over the years of [different] owners…Bruce McNall, obviously, was a long-time fan, and then owner,” added Miller. “He was thrilled with it. But for the guy who brought the franchise here, built the Forum [in Inglewood, California, the Kings’ first arena], and thought he was doing the right thing, getting established players and names in the early years, and trading those draft choices—it turned out [that] it wasn’t the right thing to do—I think he would’ve been tremendously thrilled to see that happen.”
As visible as the Stanley Cup has been as the celebration continues throughout the summer, what might be less visible is what the Kings’ first Stanley Cup Championship could do for the franchise.
“What I hope it means is that they’ve gotten away from that image of never having won anything, never having been relevant,” Miller emphasized. “That’s an image that’s very difficult to get rid of, and, on the other hand, maintain. To me, teams that have consistently won, and then, start losing, still have that image of being winning teams. In some instances, the Raiders still have an image of being a winning team, yet they’ve been terrible for years.”
“On the other hand, [a team with a long history of losing that finally wins], doesn’t always make [them] a team that, in people’s minds, are winners [or] champions,” Miller added. ‘Yeah, they’re champions this year.’ But can they keep going, and get that image of [being] a championship organization? I hope this is the start of that type of image for this team.”
Miller also expressed hope that winning the Stanley Cup will raise the Kings’ profile in Southern California.
“I hope it increases the awareness of this team, in this market,” said Miller. “It may, or it may not. I read articles, and I’m thinking, how many times have the Kings been mentioned as Stanley Cup Champions, and when they’re not, I’m disappointed. Why aren’t they mentioned? They won the championship. Maybe you’ve got to do it more than just one year.”
“You hope it increases awareness of your sport, not just among the die-hard fans, but those who, all of sudden [are just discovering the game],” added Miller. “It could do that for this organization. Right away, we’ve seen a jump in season ticket sales and merchandise.”
“Like when [former Kings and NHL superstar Wayne] Gretzky came here, the profile of the team went from hardly anything to the number one team in the league, because everybody knew of him. I look [at advertisements] in hockey magazines. ‘Get hockey sweaters,’ and I don’t see the Kings.”
“Now, maybe that’s going to change.”
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