LOS ANGELES — On January 13, the Los Angeles Kings will honor legendary, Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer Bob Miller, who retired last April after 44 years behind the Kings’ microphone.
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Kings will unveil a statue of Miller in Staples Center’s Star Plaza, and a banner that will hang permanently with those of the Kings players who have had their jersey numbers retired.
But before all that, the most important question is: How is Miller doing, in terms of his health?
“I’m feeling pretty good, getting along all right,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying the games we’ve gone to—about ten games. I’m feeling fine right now, and I hope that continues.”
Miller also indicated that he has had no setbacks since last January.
“The last one was during the All-Star Game [festivities in January 2017], when I had that mild stroke,” he noted. “I hope that stays the way it is.”
Miller has also taken advantage of having the freedom to do things he couldn’t do during his 44 years of calling the action for the Kings.
“It’s been nice, like this year, we took a vacation in October,” he noted. “We went to Hawai’i. I’ve never been able to get away in October before, and have a personal vacation. That was really different, knowing that games were being played, the season is on, and we’re going to Hawai’i for a week. I enjoyed that.”
“We haven’t planned many vacations during the season, and that’s because there are some events going on here,” he added. “They didn’t want me to say, ‘I know you have a statue, but I’ll be in Hawai’i, so go ahead and unveil it without me.’”
As Miller indicated, he has attended some home games and remains close to the organization—he doesn’t yet feel like he’s fully retired just yet.
“[Retirement has been] good,” he said. “I don’t feel that I’ve had the full effect of retirement yet, because of so many things going on. We appreciate all that people are doing. We’ve had several lifetime achievement awards, and it’s very nice of all of those organizations to do that. But at the same time, you’re checking your calendar. ‘Am I supposed to be somewhere tonight, and then, tomorrow night?’”
“But that’s been very nice,” he added. “I’m not saying any of this to disparage anything they’re doing. We’ve gotten some very nice awards. But I think that, after Saturday, there’s the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association luncheon on January 22, and after that, the Los Angeles Sports Council on February 6, I think that might be the last. Then, I’ll be wondering why nobody’s calling me to have me do something. Then I’ll get the full effects of retirement.”
Once the current demands on his time decrease, Miller believes that he’ll finally feel like he’s fully retired, but it’ll also feel rather odd.
“It’ll feel a little abnormal after all those years doing the Kings games, living by the calendar, having to be somewhere, or fly somewhere,” he noted. “That will be a little different, because like I said, you almost live by the clock. ‘Where do I have to be at this time,’ or prior to a game, ‘do I have to do something here, or be up in the booth at particular time,’ so it’ll be a lot different, and I would think, a lot more relaxing.”
Nine months into his retirement, Miller is as at peace with his decision to retire as he was when he announced his retirement last March.
“I was ready to retire,” he said. “I really was. 44 years was long enough, and then, the health situation came into it. I thought that, at 79 years old, it’s time to say, ‘look, that’s long enough.’ So I’m looking forward to, sometimes, doing nothing, because I’m so good at that, and having time to say, ‘let’s go for a couple of days.’ I don’t have to be back, and I don’t have to travel somewhere.”
“It was time, and I’m very pleased with it now,” he added. “I always tell people that I can watch a game from my couch and say things that I couldn’t say on TV, so it relaxes me.”
Miller might’ve been ready for retirement. Nevertheless, he indicated that it does feel a bit strange to no longer be in the broadcast booth.
“Yeah, it does [feel strange], a little bit,” he noted. “Especially, I think, for my wife, Judy. I’ll say, ‘the Kings are on,’ and she’ll say, ‘oh? Are they playing tonight?’ She said, ‘I never used to ask if they’re playing tonight. I knew! Either we were going to the game, or I was going to be watching it on TV.’ Now, she’s kind of let that go and she’s let me worry about that. ‘Are we going to the game, or what?’ So that’s a little different.”
“It’s also really different because every August, I’d get The Hockey News yearbook delivered, and they’d have stuff on every team and player,” he added. “I’d start making out my cards that I use during games—spotting cards with each player’s name and number, height, weight, number of years in the league, and some other tidbits about him. That was a lengthy process. But mid-August came around, the yearbook came, and I thought, ‘I don’t have to do all that work now.’”
“I still keep track of what time the game is coming on, not that I watch every game, all the way through. I just like to keep tabs on what they’re doing, and I think that’s normal for anybody who spent that many years with one professional team. You want to see how they’re doing and hope that they do well.”
Miller also indicated that he does miss the thrill of broadcasting, a little bit.
“You really enjoy the game, and what I enjoyed, and always got a thrill from, was doing live television,” he said. “I looked forward to that. There’s some pressure with it, but it’s good pressure. You want to do an accurate job, and then you hear some positive comments from the fans who have been so gracious and so generous to me with those comments, and their passion for Kings hockey.”
Speaking of fans, Miller has signed on as Kings Ambassador, a role that he is not only perfectly suited for, but it’s also something he had already been doing for 44 years.
“I’ll be meeting fans and going to events as a Kings Ambassador,” he said. “That will, I think, ease the effect of, ‘wow, he’s gone. We’ll never see him,’ and for me, ‘oh…I don’t have anything to do. Oh yeah! I’m going to be involved with the Kings tonight, so that’s good. I’ll get to meet some of the fans.’”
“I think being the ambassador is a good opportunity for me to ease out of it, eventually,” he added. “It may come to the point where I don’t even want to do that anymore, and then you’re gone. But it wasn’t such an abrupt ending to everything, so I can kind of leave slowly over the years. I think that’ll be good.”
As reported in this space back in September 2009, the Kings have had no greater ambassador.
“I’m happy that I was able to sign on with the Kings as ambassador, spend time with Kings fans, and I’m going to mention this on Saturday: I appreciate their loyalty to the team, and their passion for Kings hockey,” said Miller. “We always have fun, just getting together. We have some laughs and talk about hockey, and they’ve been very, very gracious down through the years with nice comments.”
“Every time you do a telecast, in the back of your mind, you’re thinking about how many of them are watching the game and commenting on it,” added Miller. “They’ve been very, very nice to myself, and to Judy.”
There’s a saying that what you give comes back ten-fold, and that certainly applies to Miller.
“I’ve never wanted to walk away from somebody without asking what their name was, and what they do, or signing an autograph,” he said. “You never want someone to say, ‘boy, I met him. What a jerk. He wouldn’t talk to me and walked away.’ I never wanted to get that reputation, so it means a lot to me when fans react like that and make positive comments.”
“I think I learned that from when I would meet somebody who was on TV, in person,” he added. “I found out, ‘I really had a nice time talking to him. I’m going to watch him on his show.’ All of a sudden, you feel closer to the guy. That’s the way, especially when we came out here, and hockey was not number one, and we weren’t selling out, you’ve got to do that to get the fans on your side and think, ‘I had a great time talking with him. I want to watch that game.’ I think that’s the way things probably turned out over the years.”
Probably? There’s the Miller Modesty again.
With his big day coming in about 36 hours from this writing, Miller indicated that the Kings placing a statue at Staples Center and putting up a banner inside the arena in his honor are both beyond his wildest dreams.
“Never, ever did I think anything like this was going to happen,” he said. “Just like the Hockey Hall of Fame, I don’t think anybody, players included, ever start a career saying, ‘my goal is to be in the hall of fame.’ That is so far from your thinking when you’re starting out.”
“You just want the opportunity to have a career in the industry that you pick,” he added. “You never think about what’s going to happen down the road that maybe you’ll be in the Hall of Fame, or have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I never, ever thought of that. So when something like this happens, it’s a great feeling, and I’m so appreciative of AEG, Mr. [Phil] Anschutz, Mr.[Ed] Roski, everybody at Fox Sports West, and the Kings staff for doing this. They’ve been great to work with, so I’m really looking forward to the ceremony.”
Miller will be joined by more than 60 family members and friends, not to mention former colleagues and Kings alumni.
“We’ve got so many friends and family coming in, and they’re all excited about it,” he noted. “It’s certainly going to be a great highlight to my career. We’ll have some fun. It’ll be great to see everybody and to have them there that night.”
“Some of my former partners are coming in, former players are coming in,” he added. “It’s going to be an outstanding night. We’ve got family and friends coming in from North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Florida. It’s just going to be a great night, and then to add to it, a bobblehead, of all things.”
Indeed, the Kings have produced a bobblehead in honor of Miller, and based on photos released by the Kings, the likeness of Miller is pretty good.
“They did a good job on the bobblehead,” said Miller, who joked, “and they had very little to work with.”
Miller also indicated that as special as the awards that he has received since he retired, along with the two upcoming awards mentioned earlier in this story are, the statue and banner are much more special to him.
“Some of the other awards were great, that I received from other organizations, and I’m going to get a couple more,” he observed. “I appreciate all of those, but this is recognition from the team I spent 44 years with, and from players who were Hall of Famers, from Hall of Fame broadcasters. Them being there means so much to me that it is kind of the capper on my entire career. It’s something that I’ll obviously remember forever. It’s just going be an exciting night.”
“The statue is one thing, and then they’re going to put a banner up,” he added. “I thought, ‘oh my God.’ Those two things together—they never entered my mind. I’m honored that I’ll be out there with some of the great athletes who have statues and to be up in the rafters with the former Kings players whose numbers have been retired.”
As my interview with Miller wound down, yours truly joked that the statue would become a favorite target for birds.
Without missing a beat, Miller quipped, “they’ve been smiling for weeks!”
Given Miller’s sense of humor, not to mention that he always has a new joke or humorous story, this reporter can’t think of a better way to start looking forward to Saturday evening.
LEAD PHOTO: Retired 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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