LOS ANGELES — Legendary Los Angeles Kings broadcaster Bob Miller announced his retirement during a press conference on Thursday afternoon at Staples Center in Los Angeles, an event in which virtually every news outlet in the Los Angeles area and just about all of the local hockey media were represented.
The easy observation here is that Miller demands that much respect. But even more significant, he is truly loved by so many of us who cover the team, as well as others in the local sports media whose lives and careers Miller has had a positive impact on.
To be sure, the press conference was held for Miller to talk about his health and to announce his retirement plans. But if you think the press conference was about Miller, guess again.
Taken at face value, the press conference was all about Miller. But looking deeper, it was really about all of us—the media present, the extended Kings family, Kings fans and those in the hockey world whose lives Bob (he would certainly want me to call him “Bob” here) has touched.
Indeed, although Bob used the press conference to talk about his condition and what lies ahead for him, more importantly, it became obvious, right from the start, that it was more about him trying to make us feel comfortable with his impending retirement, which will deprive us of one of the greatest voices and personalities ever, not just in hockey, but throughout the world of sports broadcasting.
Bob’s purpose became clear when he opened his remarks by saying, “I don’t want this to be a sad situation.”
In fact, his intentions became obvious from his very first words, which did not make it on air. Indeed, when he sat down at the head table, he looked out at the packed Chick Hearn Media Room and joked, “this is the biggest crowd I’ve seen in here with no food being served.”
There was a lot of laughter from the media gathered because the primary use of the media room at Staples Center during Kings games is to serve the pre-game meal for media, broadcasters, team officials, and others. But the venue was significant beyond the fact that we eat there.
“I’ve always had a great time in this room,” Bob said. “Getting together, having some stories and some laughs.”
As Bob indicated, he spent so much time with so many of us in the media room, either before a game or after—one of the best things about covering the Kings is getting to hear Bob’s jokes and stories, especially after games—that having the press conference there had great significance and sentimental value—this was not lost on Bob and his wife, Judy, that’s for sure.
Bob opened the press conference with a joke, and he threw in jokes throughout, along with some humorous stories and amusing remarks. Those were interspersed with an update on his health and his retirement plans, along with thanking a myriad of people, including Kings fans. But that he was telling jokes and humorous stories just made you think, “that’s Bob.” It was just like him to be more concerned about making us feel comfortable, even though his retirement is not a story any of us wanted to report on or hear about.
To be sure, the press conference was primarily about Bob doing what he always does—think about everybody else first, being concerned about how we feel, and make us all smile and laugh with him rather than shed tears (even though that certainly happened) and be sad and disappointed.
Bob wanted to put all of us first, even though the press conference was supposed to be about him.
But that’s Bob.
Shifting gears, you may have noticed that at the end of the press conference, I asked Bob what he thought his legacy would be and once again, Bob was his humble self.
“I would like people to say, ‘he was a friendly guy,’” he said. “‘I went up and talked to him. He took time to talk to me.’ I never wanted to be walking away from someone and have them say, ‘boy, what a jerk. I just wanted to talk to him and he ignored me and walked away.’”
“I’ve had that atmosphere of cooperation with fans and friendliness with fans and have them say, ‘hey! He spent time with me, asked me what I do for a living and it was really nice to talk to him.’ I think that’s what I want people to remember, and that we had a good time listening to the broadcast, so that would be it for me, that ‘I had a great time talking to him and I really enjoyed the broadcast.’”
Of course, as modest and humble as Miller is, he left out a lot about what his legacy will be and already is, including bending over backwards to:
- Make himself available to virtually everyone by working with the plethora of broadcasters who he’s helped and mentored all over the country, from those trying to get into the business to seasoned veterans.
- Do countless interviews with broadcast, print and Internet media all over the world, including the time he invited yours truly to his home for an interview and we ended up talking hockey for about three hours back in the summer of 2012.
- Teach the game to thousands upon thousands of people in Southern California throughout his 44-year career with the Kings, the vast majority having grown up in an area where hockey wasn’t even an afterthought yet. What is icing? What is offsides? Why was that a penalty? Why wasn’t that a penalty? Bob taught so many, including a ten-year-old in 1973 who was playing roller hockey in a Culver City schoolyard but only got to watch the relative handful of Kings games that were broadcast on KHJ-TV 9 here in the Los Angeles area, with the rest only on radio.
- Talk with fans, media—everyone who wants to—about the Kings and the National Hockey League. As he has often said, and he reiterated this during the press conference, Bob has always enjoyed talking with Kings fans and he always made time to do so.
Undoubtedly, without Bob teaching us the game during each broadcast, it’s probably safe to say that the Kings would not be where they are today, and it is likely that they would still be seeking their first Stanley Cup Championship—fan interest in the team would be nowhere near what it is today and it follows that ownership might’ve responded in kind, in terms of investing in the team. The Kings might not even exist today without Bob’s yeoman’s work throughout his career to build interest in the team and hockey in Southern California.
Indeed, when I asked Bob about his legacy, his humility dictated that he could only allow himself to provide a very, very modest answer. But the fact is that he already has a legacy that reaches far and wide and has touched and impacted so many individuals and careers, whether it was helping an up and coming broadcaster, teaching Southern Californians about hockey or interacting with fans, all of which has helped grow the game here like no one else ever has, or probably, will.
Those of us here in Southern California who enjoy the game of hockey, those of us who cover the sport locally, and so many others, owe Bob Miller a tremendous debt we’ll never be able to repay. Of course, knowing Bob, he’ll never, ever acknowledge that debt.
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings television play-by-play announcer Bob Miller (left),the Voice of the Kings, shown here with his wife, Judy (center) and Kings President/Business Operations Luc Robitaille, announced his retirement at a press conference at Staples Center in Los Angeles on March 3, 2017. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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