FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: With the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history last June, their Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer Bob Miller moved a step closer to retirement. In the final installment of a series featuring the Kings’ long-time broadcasters, Miller talked about his future, along with what he is working on during the NHL lockout.
LOS ANGELES — To coin a phrase using a local hockey term, the Los Angeles area was blessed for many years with a “Triple Crown Line” of play-by-play announcers calling the action for three of our local sports teams.
As Southern California sports fans know, Vin Scully is an institution with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while the late Chick Hearn called the action for the Los Angeles Lakers, and was as much of an institution as Scully is for the Dodgers.
The third member of that Hall of Fame trio is Los Angeles Kings television play-by-play announcer Bob Miller, who has called the action for the Kings for 39 seasons. He was the recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 2000, which recognizes “…members of the radio and television industry who made outstanding contributions to their profession and the game during their career in hockey broadcasting,” making him a media honoree in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Miller has received countless awards and honors, in addition to the 2000 honor by the Hockey Hall of Fame and the NHL Broadcasters Association. But one thing was missing from Miller’s resumé, that is, until the Kings won the Stanley Cup four months ago, the first championship in the 45-year history of the franchise.
Before the Kings reached the Promised Land back in June, Miller was, naturally, very concerned that he might never see the day.
“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],” Miller told Frozen Royalty in an exclusive interview. “Now I have.”
Indeed, Miller no longer has to worry about retiring, and then seeing the Kings win the Stanley Cup the next season, something he has been concerned about for years.
Although Miller was as thrilled as anyone to see the Kings win the Stanley Cup, perhaps more so, his thoughts were focused on others, even though so many told him during the 2012 playoff run that they hoped the Kings would win the Cup for him.
“I don’t want to say that they should’ve won it for me because I’ve been there 39 years,” Miller 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,” Miller added. “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.”
The Dreaded “R” Word
The last thing anyone who follows the Kings wants to see, let alone think about, is the retirement of Bob Miller. But after the Kings won the Stanley Cup, several people asked him if he was now going to retire.
“I’ve got one year left on my contract, and I want to see what it’s like to go around the league as a Stanley Cup Champion,” Miller exclaimed.
But how long past next season, whenever that might be, will Miller, now 74 years old, continue in the Kings broadcast booth?
Miller admitted that winning the Stanley Cup has brought him a bit closer to retirement, perhaps even more than a bit.
“It makes it a little more realistic to say that I know it’s coming to an end sometime, and at least I’ve seen them win one Cup, and hopefully more, if I stick around a few more years,” he said. “I think it makes it a little easier to say if, for some reason, I decide, a year or two from now, ‘that’s it. I’m going to spend more time with Judy, and we’re going to do some things, like travel at times of the year we can’t travel now.’”
That said, and much to the delight and relief of Kings fans, Miller has not made any plans to retire, even though it has been on his mind more and more.
“The Kings have been very good,” Miller noted. “One year left [on his contract], but they’ve said, ‘it’s up to you. You tell us how much longer you want to go.’ But it’s been on my mind more in the last year or two, about how much longer do I want to go, than it ever was before.”
“When you’re younger, you think you’re just going to keep going on,” Miller added. “I’ll be 74 when this season starts. How much more do I want to do here?”
Miller’s thoughts then turned to the work of a legendary colleague, who is now mostly working just home games.
“I admire what Scully is doing, except that he got the job when he was twenty,” said Miller. “He still sounds so good, and I talked to him about it a couple of years ago at Dodger Stadium. They were going through some awful times with ownership and losing games, and he’d been there in the great glory years. He told me that the cut down in [his] travel made it possible.”
“I mentioned to the Kings, last year, what if I just did home games, and you had somebody doing the road games? You’d break them in, and when I decide ‘that’s it, I don’t want to do it at all anymore,’ you’ve got somebody fans are accustomed to hearing, and could move right in,” added Miller. “It’s kind of like what the Dodgers are doing with Eric Collins—I don’t know if they have plans that he would move in when Vin leaves. [The Kings] weren’t anxious to do anything like that, and I don’t know that I am yet, either.”
Miller indicated that road trips are becoming more difficult for him.
“The only thing that gets you about the travel—it’s not the way we travel,” Miller noted. “We [have charter flights]. We’ve got first class seats. We couldn’t be treated any nicer. If we were still traveling commercial, I would’ve quit years ago, because it’s such a hassle. The way it is now, it couldn’t be any nicer or easier.”
“What gets to you are some of the days on the road, not games days, but days off on the road on a long trip,” Miller added. “You’re sitting there thinking, ‘here I am, sitting in the middle of winter in Toronto or Montreal, it’s freezing outside,’ and you’re stuck in a hotel room, or if you’re sick on the road. I’ve had a couple of bouts lately on the road where I’m thinking ‘why am I not at home,’ where you’ve got your own doctor, or somebody who can take care of you.”
“Getting in at 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning when you’ve got a game the next day—I don’t know how the players do it. That starts to bother you a little bit.”
But even with all the aspects of the job that might pull him towards retirement, the fear of leaving the job too soon is a strong pull back into the broadcast booth.
“My fear still is, and this probably is a fear that anybody else [has], in any business, unless you’re forced to retire, like a player with an injury, is that you retire, and you miss it so much, and maybe more so in sports,” Miller explained. “I mean, I’ve got the [summer] break that the players do. We’re not there fifty weeks per year, with two weeks off. We get a break, and when the next season comes, it’s exciting to see a next season, so it’s not a hum-drum, every-day-same-thing job. You’re anxious about the next season.”
“If somebody retires, and a month into the next season, they’re thinking, ‘what in the world did I do? I miss it so much,’” Miller elaborated. “That’s always in the back of your mind—don’t do it too soon.”
What might push Miller out of the broadcast booth for good?
“If it finally gets to you, that you don’t want to be away from home that long—that would be one determining factor,” said Miller. “The other would be [for] a game this fast, when you really feel, in your mind, that you’re not able keep up with it, and do a good job.”
“The game is so fast, especially these days,” added Miller. “I think it’s more difficult now than it ever was to do the game. Somewhere along the line, if you think you can’t keep up with it anymore, then it’s time to say, ‘it’s been great, I’m through,’ before you get to becoming a joke among fans. ‘Did you hear what he said? He called this guy that.’”
The added difficultly in broadcasting a hockey game comes from the availability of so much more information compared to years past.
“It takes longer for me to prepare for a game these days than it ever did before, and that’s because of the information available now, on the Internet [to everyone], that wasn’t available before,” Miller emphasized. “If you’re not up-to-date with things, and you say something on the air, and the fans say, ‘that’s not right, I know that’s not right,’ pretty soon, you lose your credibility, and you’re on your way out.”
“It takes much more preparation now,” Miller added. “When I started [in 1973], we never got information on the other teams unless we called someone [from that team]. Now there are articles every day. You could spend hours reading all of those. It’s a lot different now, no doubt about it.”
Despite the added difficulty, there is an up side.
“At the same time, the demands of this job—memorizing rosters, keeping up-to-date with things, keeping up with the pace of the game, I think it keeps you younger,” Miller noted. “It keeps your mind working.”
The excitement of doing live television is helping keep Miller behind the microphone, and in front of the television camera.
“Even after all these years, and this is the 52nd year in radio and TV for me, I still get a kick out of going on live,” he noted. “Sports and news are about the only things left that are live, and it’s still a thrill to me to know that, at 7:30 PM, we’re going to go on live, and see if we can do this with a minimum of mistakes, especially on TV, where so many people are involved, and the coordination of all those things.”
“That still excites me, doing live TV,” he added.
Although retirement is not imminent for Miller, no one can work forever.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘don’t ever retire! Don’t ever retire!’ Well, it’s going to happen some day,” said Miller, who added that he takes a lot of pride in his 39 years in hockey, all with one team, unlike so many other broadcasters who have worked for several teams.
“What I’m most proud of is the longevity with one team, and the longevity in this market,” he said. “I’ve seen people come into this market, and they get a lot of notoriety, they’re the greatest thing ever, and in two years, they’re gone. Whatever happened to this guy? He was going to be the greatest thing they ever heard—and not only in sports, but in news, or weather, whatever. Pretty soon, where are they? They’re gone.”
It’s Not An Entirely New Book, But…
During that wait, Miller just might have something that will keep him busy.
Back in 2006, Miller’s book, Bob Miller’s Tales of the Los Angeles Kings, was published, a 186-page collection of stories from his time with the Kings. Over what was then 33 years with the team, Miller obviously had many more stories that were not included in the book. But rather than work on those stories, he could be working on a “Stanley Cup Addendum,” of sorts, if he can work things out with a new publisher that has purchased the assets of the now-defunct publisher of his existing book.
The only problem is that the book might not be available until next Spring.
“The thing that got me was that they wouldn’t be able to bring it out until next April, and I’m thinking, ‘next April? We’re going to be in the playoffs for next year,’” said Miller. “So I asked, ‘we can’t do this for Christmas?’ I don’t know the publishing business, but he said we’ve already got our list of books for the fall and winter.”
Miller told his publisher that if there is a lockout—and there is—he would likely have the time to complete the new section.
“What if the season didn’t start on time? What if it doesn’t start until January, and I’ve got time to write this and get it to you,” Miller asked. “We can’t get it out in December or January?”
Miller’s book was released early in the 2006-07 season, in time for the Christmas holidays, and with plenty of time for it to be promoted on the Kings’ television and radio broadcasts, opportunities that would be mostly lost with an April release.
“We had the benefit, for the last book, of publicizing it on the air,” Miller noted. “I told him that I did book signings for 250 to 400 people. Book stores said that [they] had never—if they got 15 people when an author came in to sign, that’s pretty good. The first one I did, in Torrance, there were over 200 people.”
“Then, I did one at Staples Center [for 400 people],” Miller added. “I said that we have the advantage on TV, promoting that I’ll sign this week here or there. I thought that might get him to say, ‘OK, let’s bring it out.’ I told them, ‘if you can get this out by Christmas, we’ll sell thousands of’em here.’ People were buying three or four copies as gifts.”
Miller hopes that the “Stanley Cup Addendum” to his book could come out this year, or sometime in early 2013. At that point, he could turn his attention to beginning work on a second book featuring all new stories.
“I think I’m going to try it, even if it doesn’t sell much,” said Miller. “I’m not in it to make that much money on it. I think I’m going to get started on that. I’ve jotted down some ideas for some stories, and then, the rest of the book will be stories from the original, although we may edit some of those out. They don’t want the book to be 300 pages.”
“It should be done,” added Miller. “Who knows if we’re ever going to win this again, and it’s the first time in 45 years. There should be some record of that in book form. But it’s got to be something different.”
While there continues to be a lot of uncertainty regarding seeing NHL hockey this season, at least Miller is working on giving Los Angeles area hockey fans something to look forward to.
The Lighter Side Of Bob Miller
One of the great pleasures of being part of the local media covering the Kings on a regular basis is that we get to see and talk with Miller on game nights, and sometimes, at Kings practice sessions.
Media who arrive at Staples Center prior to a game and arrive early enough, or those who hang out in the media room after a game, sometimes have the good fortune of getting to hear Miller tell stories and jokes, and he is just about as a good at that as he is at doing play-by-play.
Miller is also extremely generous with his time, and will often go out of his way to talk with fans, and with members of the media.
Miller went well out of his way in late August when he invited me to his West Hills, California home for the interview that helped spawn an eleven-story series featuring the Kings broadcasters, including the story you’re reading now. In fact, we ended up “talking hockey” for over two hours, and then, he invited me to check out his office, which is decked out with memorabilia from his career with the Kings, and from before he came to the Los Angeles area in 1973.
To illustrate how down to Earth and funny Miller is, he regaled me with a joke and a quick story before our interview began. Here’s the set-up…
As we sat down in his living room, I could not help but notice the larger than life painting of Miller by Samantha Wendell, given to him in honor of his 25th year with the Kings, back in 1998.
The painting hangs above his fireplace, and as Bob and I were talking about the painting, he joked, “We were going to do something different at the front of our church. They were going to take these ‘kneelers’ out, ones that you use for communion.”
“So I said to Judy, ‘I’m going to get a [few] of those and put’em down here [in front of his fireplace], so people can kneel down,” he added, laughing.
As we both laughed, I replied, “You know something? If you opened your home to [some] Kings fans, they would actually do that, and I’m not kidding.”
But Miller wasn’t done.
“We had a former minister of ours here, when we joined the church,” he said, chuckling. “He was back in town, and he came over. He walked in, looked at [the painting over the fireplace], and he’s [making the sign of the cross over his chest] while looking at the painting!”
While both the joke and the story may fall under the “you had to be there” category (the story about his former pastor was true), they will undoubtedly be funnier when you listen to them—all of the raw audio interviews with the Kings announcers will be available in a few days here on Frozen Royalty.
- Los Angeles To The Hockey World: Here’s 250,000 Reasons Why This Is A Hockey Town
- Los Angeles To The Hockey World: Here’s 250,000 Reasons Why This Is A Hockey Town – In Photos
- LA Kings, Stanley Cup Bring Smiles, Excitement To Patients And Families At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles – Photo Essay
- LA Kings Lifted The City Over Their Heads – Broadcaster Daryl Evans Talks Stanley Cup, Its Impact
- Stanley Cup Win Allays LA Kings’ Hall of Fame Announcer Bob Miller’s Greatest Fear
- LA Kings’ Jim Fox: “Winning The Stanley Cup Overwhelms Everything Else”
- LA Kings: Stanley Cup Is A “Rock Star” That Everybody Has To Celebrate
- LA Kings Radio Broadcaster Nick Nickson: “Hey! We’re The Stanley Cup Champions! How Good Is That?”
- LA Kings Broadcasters On The Lockout: “Get It Done. Let’s Start Playing”
- Bob Miller And Nick Nickson: 2012 Playoff Expectations Started Low For LA Kings, But Quickly Skyrocketed
- Jim Fox, Daryl Evans Not Surprised By LA Kings 2012 Playoff Success
- LA Kings Broadcasters Examine The Roles Of Dean Lombardi, Darryl Sutter In Stanley Cup Win
- Los Angeles Kings Broadcasters: Anze Kopitar Is Now An Elite Player
- Professionalism And Pain: Bob Miller, Jim Fox Forced To Be Healthy Scratches During Most Of LA Kings Playoff Run
- Frozen Royalty Audio: Exclusive Interviews with Bob Miller, Jim Fox, Nick Nickson and Daryl Evans
Los Angeles Dodgers Play-By-Play Announcer Vin Scully Surprises Bob Miller on ESPN Radio Los Angeles – Mason and Ireland, June 12, 2012
Click on the arrow to listen (46:20)
On The Road With Bob Miller
Miller takes you through a two-game road trip (late in the 2010-11 season), showing how he prepares for a Kings television broadcast. If you don’t know what Miller does to prepare for a broadcast, this is must-see video!
Miller & Fox – Unseen Playoff Footage (Game 5 at New Jersey)
Used with permission.
In The Booth With Miller & Fox – Goal 1
Used with permission.
In The Booth With Miller & Fox – Goal 2
Used with permission
Bob Miller On ABC7
Used with permission.
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