FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE WITH AUDIO: The legendary, long-time Voice of the Kings, Bob Miller, spoke exclusively with Frozen Royalty on July 27. Here’s an update on his condition, where he is in his recovery, details on what he was diagnosed with, and if he’ll be back behind the microphone soon. You can also listen to the audio of the interview with Miller, some of which is not included in this story.
LOS ANGELES — On January 27, 2016, Los Angeles Kings faithful held their collective breath when the news broke that beloved, long-time television play-by-play announcer Bob Miller would be taking an immediate medical leave of absence so that he could undergo cardiac bypass surgery.
“I did have some chest pain [years ago], but when I had a physical, they’d say that the numbers on the blood test for your heart are right where they should be,” the 78-year-old native of Chicago, Illinois explained. “But our doctor said, ‘let’s do another test.’ There’s a test for calcium build-up around the heart and the arteries. The normal numbers, as I understand it, are in the 400’s. Mine came back at 3,300.”
“So they did an angiogram and that’s when the doctor—I was still in the room, on the table—he called [his wife], Judy over,” Miller elaborated. “He had it on the TV screen and said that there were four arteries that were 90 percent blocked.”
Miller’s quadruple bypass surgery was performed by Dr. Alfredo Trento at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
As an aside, among Miller’s caregivers at Cedars-Sinai were some Kings fans.
“One night, a nurse came in to change my IV and she whispered in my ear, ‘I can’t wait until you get back on the telecast,’” he said. “There was no indication before that she ever watched, or that she was a hockey fan, or anything. It was kind of fun to have somebody do that, and there were a couple of others who were Kings fans.”
Months passed until Miller was ready to return to Staples Center for some Kings hockey—Game 1 of the Kings’ first round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, even though he was not yet ready to resume his duties behind the microphone.
At that time, Miller had just begun cardiac rehabilitation therapy.
“Twelve weeks of cardiac rehab, three times a week,” he noted. “That was 36 sessions that insurance paid for but I’m still doing some on my own now, the same type of therapy.”
“Originally, they’d hook me up with all the wires and electrodes on my chest and the nurses would monitor you as you did your exercise,” he added. “Now, when I go over on my own, they don’t hook [me] up anymore. So I’m still getting some exercise in and everything seems to be going OK.”
“I thought, ‘why stop now?’ I’ve still got some time before the season starts, so I’ll keep going and exercise on my own. Judy and I walk about two miles every morning. I’ve heard doctors say that you can take all the pills in the world, but the best thing for you is to walk. For anybody, a 30-minute walk each day is the best thing you can do for your health. Somebody said that if that was in a pill form, it would be a miracle drug, what walking can do for you.”
The exercise has been critical in Miller’s recovery.
“I feel that the exercise has really increased my stamina and energy, and I noticed that at the start of the cardiac rehab, because until then, I was really exhausted just doing minor, little things,” he observed. “I couldn’t walk two blocks without being winded and have to have somebody walk with me, just in case anything happened.”
“Each day, I’d try to walk one house further,” he added. “‘I went to this house yesterday. I’m going to try to go one house more.’ The physical therapist I had who came out to the house to walk with me, said, ‘as far as you go, remember that you’ve got to turn around and [go] back.’ So I tried to increase my walking a little bit—one house on the block further each day until one day when I said, ‘let’s go all the way around.’ I’d have to stop several times to not overdo it. But now, we just go the whole way without stopping.”
“It wipes you out, I’ll tell you that. I lost about 14 pounds and I just had no stamina, no energy. I was happy to just sit around and do nothing, which I’m very good at, so it worked OK for me. But I was patient, and they said that you’ve got to be patient. You can’t rush it. They said that it’s going to take time.”
Patience has been a key factor in his recovery.
“The one thing I remember, and still adhere to, is that the doctor said don’t rush it,” said Miller. “This is a six-to-nine month recovery because it’s a really invasive surgery and you can’t rush getting back. I know people get impatient and want to get back where they were, but the worst thing you can do is rush it, so I’ve followed that. I haven’t tried to think, ‘what he said would take six months, I’ll try to do in three.’ That’s exactly the wrong thing to do.”
The need for patience was most evident prior to last season’s playoffs.
“There were times I thought, ‘if I can get back to do the first round of the playoffs, that’s all we can do, anyway,’” he said. “But then, as the days went on, I realized—I would get up, get dressed, and I could barely make it through breakfast before I’d have to go and lay down and sleep for 40 minutes. I’d say to Judy, ‘I’ve got to go and lay down,’ and I was doing nothing but eating breakfast.”
“I’d be watching the games on TV with her and I’d say, ‘I think I could do that,’ and then I’d do something really simple, and I had to go and lay down,” he added. “So I knew I had to forget about trying to be back in time to do just one round of the playoffs. I knew I couldn’t do one period without being exhausted. I thought that would be detrimental.”
Miller gave a lot of credit to his wife for being a rock for him.
“Judy’s been great,” he emphasized. “She stayed in the hospital, on a cot, seven of the eight nights I was there and she was so helpful. It was amazing how patient she was with me, at that time. I was very lucky to have her stay there. It was a comfort to me to have her there.”
Even as he continues his cardiac rehabilitation, Miller has already made great progress in his recovery.
“I was at a cardiologist appointment, and they hook you up to an electrocardiogram,” he said. “I’m on quite a bit of medication now—blood thinners and stuff. My doctor looked at that and said everything looks good. He was happy with the way things are going.”
“I’d say [that I feel] 50 percent better [since April],” he added. “Going to the playoff game, I got pretty tired just being there, that first game, so we left at the start of the third period. I just thought, ‘we’d better go.’ That’s another thing: to listen to your body and if you’re tired, like Judy said, ‘we’re going to go. If you’re tired, just say the word and we’re outta here.’ Why try and push it? I got pretty tired that night and all I was doing was watching the game. But now, I’d say I’m much better. I don’t take a nap at all during the day now. Before that, I’d go to sleep two or three times a day. Now, I’m driving places and doing the things we want to do and not getting exhausted.”
“People have said that when this recovery period is over, you’re going to realize how much better you feel than before the surgery. I thought that I didn’t feel bad before the surgery. Everybody said that you’ll have more energy and everything else, so I’ll be interested to see if that happens after the nine months.”
Nine months would come in October, right around the time that the 2016-17 National Hockey League season begins. But will Miller be ready to return to work?
“I think I will be ready by the pre-season games in Las Vegas,” he said. “That’s the plan. I hope it works out that way. The doctors say, ‘you’re a new guy now. You’ve got plenty of years left.’ But who knows that for sure, right? There’s probably only one guy who knows that. I haven’t met him yet and I don’t want to anytime soon. But we’ll see what happens when the games get going.”
“It will be [a big step to return],” he added. “I’m anxious to do it and see how it’ll be. I hope it’s going to be all right. But sometimes you get into the game and all of a sudden, you forget about how tired you are. But maybe the next day, I might be saying, ‘I don’t know if I can do too many back-to-backs.’ But we’ll see. I think working out gives me—let’s see. It’ll be six months next week since the surgery, so by October, that’ll be almost nine months. It should be OK.”
Miller is excited about the prospect of returning to the broadcast booth. That said, he is a bit concerned.
“I’m not apprehensive, but I’m interested in seeing, when I get going again, how I’m going to feel, doing the game the way I want to do it, with some energy and excitement,” he noted. “Is that going to be exhausting or am I going to get through that all right? I’m not worried about it, but that’s on my mind.”
“That’s like an athlete coming back from an injury, thinking, ‘I think it’ll be OK, but I’m wondering how it’ll be,’ taking that first hit, or throwing that first pitch, something like that,” he added. “So we’ll see. I’m hoping it’ll be OK and I’ll be able to do those two pre-season games in Las Vegas. We’re going to televise both of those and take it from there.”
Miller has been very open about his condition since the news broke last January. Although it wasn’t his first thought, he hopes by doing so, he can help others.
“If it helps somebody, that’s great,” he said. “If somebody has this condition, maybe do that extra [calcium build-up] test. I had these chest pains 30-35 years ago. I had it checked out, had the physical, went to Cedars-Sinai where they tested the blood flow to my heart, and everybody said, ‘no, you’re fine. There’s plenty of blood flow to the heart. We think it’s muscular.’ But every time I got that pain, I hoped they were right, that it was muscular. But then [the chest pains] went away for years. Just once in awhile, I’d be walking somewhere, I’d get a little pain in my chest and I’d think, ‘I hope it’s muscular.’ But it wasn’t constant and I wasn’t short of breath, or anything like that.”
“But then, just walking around the neighborhood last January, I got a few pains again, and I thought that I had to get this checked out, just for my piece of mind and luckily I did. The doctor said, ‘your heart is not damaged because you didn’t have a heart attack.’ But I was very fortunate that I got it checked out. There might be a lot of people who might’ve had [the blood test] and were told that everything’s fine. But what other tests can you do to make sure?”
Prior to his quadruple bypass surgery, as reported in this space previously, Miller indicated that now that the Kings have won the Stanley Cup, he had been thinking more about his future. But after the surgery, how he thinks about it has changed.
“I have thought more, in the last several years, about how much longer do I want to go, and winning the first Stanley Cup in 2012 and then, adding another one two seasons later, meant a lot, along those lines,” he noted. “When you haven’t experienced that championship, you think that you’d like to hang around long enough to see it and be part of it. When you do, that makes you think about how much longer you want to go.”
“I don’t want to work until right when I drop dead,” he added. “I want to have time in retirement when I’m healthy and can travel. You’d like to be able to do things and enjoy retirement, rather than retire because I was ill and couldn’t do anything anymore. But I haven’t said it’ll be this year or next year, or anything. I think some of that will be determined by how I feel after doing some of the games.”
Indeed, what’s changed is that his health is now the primary factor in how much longer he will continue behind the microphone.
“Before, [getting excited about the coming season] was the main thing,” said Miller. “I thought that if I lose that enthusiasm for the season to begin, that I’m not excited about the season starting, that’s time to end this. It’s been a long career and I’ve enjoyed it. But now, that’s only a part of it, simply because of the surgery and how I’m going to feel, coming back and doing the games.”
“I’m still excited about doing the games and seeing how the team is going to be,” added Miller. “But it’s not the main factor. It’s more now about ‘am I going to be able to do the job I want to do?’”
“I still want to be excited about game day, to get down there and wonder if there’s going to be anything about tonight that I haven’t seen before. That’s one of the great parts of this job. Every time you go to work, it could be different. It may not be, but it could be. That’s exciting.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings television play-by-play announcer Bob Miller, shown here with his wife, Judy, at their Stanley Cup Party on June 26, 2012. Photo courtesy Bob Miller.
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Bob Miller (52:00)
Frozen Royalty’s Bob Miller Coverage
- Bob Miller: The Los Angeles Kings’ Greatest Ambassador
- Stanley Cup Win Allays LA Kings’ Hall of Fame Announcer Bob Miller’s Greatest Fear
- Bob Miller And Nick Nickson: 2012 Playoff Expectations Started Low For LA Kings, But Quickly Skyrocketed
- Professionalism And Pain: Bob Miller, Jim Fox Forced To Be Healthy Scratches During Most Of LA Kings Playoff Run
- Stanley Cup Win Moves LA Kings Hall Of Fame Broadcaster Bob Miller Closer To Retirement
- Frozen Royalty Audio: Exclusive Interviews with Bob Miller, Jim Fox, Nick Nickson and Daryl Evans
- Bob Miller Talks About LA Kings Second Stanley Cup Win and His Future
- LA Kings Bob Miller Talks About New Film About His Career Premiering on December 5
- New Film Will Show Sides Of Legendary LA Kings Play-By-Play Announcer Bob Miller Few Get To See
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