As we hit the month of August, it’s a little bit slow in news regarding the New Jersey Devils. We thought it would be a great idea to check in with the former radio voice of the New Jersey Devils, Mike Miller, to see what he is up to and to reminisce a bit. Miller started with the Devils during the 1993-1994 season and stayed with the club through the 2001-2002 campaign. He got to call the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship in 1995 and one in sudden death overtime during the 2000 Finals. Here’s what he had to say:
P&P: Mike, what are you up to nowadays?
Mike Miller: I’m actually very busy. The last four seasons I’ve been the radio play-by-play voice of the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. We were fortunate to win back to back Memorial Cups, which is the national championship of Canada. I know Devils fans have seen a lot of Adam Henrique; he was on those teams along with 10 others that have gone to the NHL. I’m still involved in the game, broadcasting 70-80 games a year. I enjoy it. It’s a great organization run by former players. Our owner Bob Boughner was a captain in Calgary and Warren Rychel who played for the Kings, Toronto and Colorado. We have a new building that seats about 7,000 people and sells out every night. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s great to stay in the game and do what I love and that’s doing play-by-play.
P&P: How did you originally get the New Jersey Devils radio job?
Mike Miller: There was a gentleman by the name of Mike McCall that worked for the Devils front office. Prior to working for the New Jersey Devils, Mike worked for the International Hockey League. I spent 13 years in the IHL; five with Toledo and eight with Kalamazoo. When Chris Moore, who was the radio voice of the Devils, left to take the expansion job with the Florida Panthers, there was an opening. Mike knew of me and he was the one that put me in touch with Lou [Lamoriello]. I interviewed with him and just like that, I was in the National Hockey League. I enjoyed every second of it. It was just a wonderful time.
P&P: How did you originally come up with your goal call as well as its cadence?
Mike Miller: I don’t think you really ever can come up with anything or plan it. It kind of developed over time. I noticed one night when I had a little delay between the score and New Jersey. I thought it sounded pretty neat. So from there on out, I started expanding that pause. I liked to use it on big goals. It just kind of evolved over the years. Somebody told me the other day that a certain section of fans in the new building that still shout it out every now and then. That certainly brought a smile to my face because my time with the Devils was a remarkable decade.
P&P: Yup. There’s a section that chants it for every goal that gives the Devils the lead or adds to their advantage. What does that mean to you that Jersey fans still honor you, despite your absence for the last decade?
Mike Miller: It’s great. I hope some of them read this because I’d like to thank them for remembering. My hats are off to them. It means a lot. Being on WABC with those teams that won two Cups, those 10 years were real dear to me. Your phone call today and those fans remembering in that building, it means a lot.
P&P: Who was your favorite Devil to watch?
Mike Miller: You had to like Martin Brodeur. He was 19-years old my first year. He became a dominant goaltender in the game so quickly at a young age. Winning the cup in 1995 was a signal that he was going to have a career that was going to be absolutely phenomenal. I always loved watching Scott Stevens as well. He played the game like a middle linebacker. Watching Scott Niedermayer as an 18-year old was special. I was always a big fan of Claude Lemieux; opposing teams hated him but what a clutch player he was. I always appreciated a workmanship of a guy like Sergei Brylin as well. He was somebody you could count on every night.
Editor’s Note: Below is a video from Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, one of the best games in Devils history, with Miller on the call. At :14, he goes into his famous goal call.
P&P: Who was your favorite Devil to interview?
Mike Miller: Marty was always good with the media. Another guy that stood out was Bruce Driver. He was easy to get to and was very down-to-earth and John MacLean too when he was still playing. Those guys were super; great people and great players.
P&P: Favorite coach to work with?
Mike Miller: Jacques Lemaire was a guy that I really got a kick out of. I loved that wry smile and his sense of humor. He never said he really liked dealing with the media that much but I always saw a different side of him. Once he got going, he would talk hockey all day long. I always found him very engaging. What a hockey mind; just to pick his brain and talk about this great game was a lot of fun.
P&P: Do you try and keep up with the Devils on a regular basis?
Mike Miller: I try to. It’s great now, though, with the Internet and iPad. I still spend a lot of time on the bus and we’re lucky we have a wireless connection so you can follow the NHL. We have satellite TV so we can watch a lot of the games as we are traveling.
P&P: Do you still keep in touch with the people from your Devils days?
Mike Miller: Matt Laughlin comes on my radio show (Drive Time on ESPN 106.5 The Ticket in Toledo, OH), as well as Sherry Ross and Chico Resch. Mike Levine the PR director…I talk to Lou a couple times a year. Randy Velischek I hear from now and then. My wife and I were out to Lake Tahoe in the summertime. Marty plays in a celebrity golf tournament. We ran into him and had a good time chatting with him. I ran into Bill Guerin this past year. We had a nice talk. He’s scouting for Pittsburgh, so we had a few laughs and recalled the old days. It’s always fun when you run into someone like that.
P&P: What went into the decision to leave the Devils after the 2001-2002 season?
Mike Miller: I’m glad to report I feel great now, but being diagnosed with vocal-chord cancer. I really had no intentions of looking for another line of work. I would have stayed with the Devils forever, if they wanted me there. Being diagnosed and battling through the radiation, my voice wasn’t quite right. When you go through something like that, the amount of time I was spending away from home…it kind of hit me. My kids were still in high school. I was offered a job here in Toledeo with the Storm as the GM. I did that for four years. It was a chance to get home and let my voice recover from the treatment. I was weakened a little bit. It was a tough decision. I always left thinking eventually I could get back into the broadcast booth someplace. Obviously, you’d like to go back to the NHL. That hasn’t worked out, but that may be a blessing because my time in Windsor has been super.
Editor’s Note: Below is an in-game commentary from Matt Laughlin on Miller’s return from vocal-chord cancer during Game 1 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Carolina Hurricanes.
P&P: John Hennessy and the combo of Laughlin/Ross have followed you in the Devils radio booth. What do you think of the job they have done?
Mike Miller: They’ve all done wonderful jobs. It’s not an easy sport to call. You have to educate yourself on a daily basis. Everyone has a different style. My style was honed more from watching the Canadian broadcast and Hockey Night in Canada. I grew up on the Foster Hewitt’s, Bob Cole’s…one of the great comments I got in New Jersey was from (then goaltending coach) Jacques Caron’s wife. She heard me and said my play-by-play reminded her of Dan Kelly (St. Louis Blues). I thought that was a super compliment and said a lot because Dan was one of my favorites as well. Danny Gallavin of the Montreal Canadiens, Doc Emrick as well; they were at the top of the list. You try to emulate them a bit.
P&P: In your time, what was the most important goal or exciting game in your eyes?
Mike Miller: The first Cup in 1995. I grew up in Michigan and was a Red Wings fan. My mom and dad owned a restaurant in Toledo. It wasn’t open on Sundays. My dad and I would go to Olympia Stadium in Detroit and watch the Sunday matinee Red Wing games. We saw Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Bobby Hull with Chicago, and Larry Robinson with the Canadiens. Those were fond memories. So beating Detroit in my second year, was kind of surreal. Calling that series was absolutely phenomenal. That was the highlight. After 13 years in the minors, all the bus rides, 1,000+ minor league games, Lou giving me a chance the year before and then being able to call the Stanley Cup against the Red Wings…they are memories that I’ll take with me forever…just unbelievable stuff.
Editor’s Note: Below is a video of the Devils three Cup clinching calls. The first two (1995 and 2000) have Miller on the call.
P&P: Were there any good locker room stories or practical jokes?
Mike Miller: One guy that I remembered that I thought brought a lot of humor was Doug Gilmour. I liked his attitude, he was a prankster type. The way he handled himself and kept things loose, he exemplified that room better than anyone.
P&P: Where were the popular places that you or Devils players/staff would go for some eats?
Mike Miller: One place was Segovia in Moonachie near the old Meadowlands. It was close to the house I rented a room in. It was a mile and a half from the building. It served Spanish food. After a game, I came in there to unwind and have a couple adult beverages. They got to know me so well, that when I came in they handed me the remote so I could watch the television and the NHL highlights. The Verona Inn was a place guys tried to hide and have a couple of cold ones. It was a nice little neighborhood place. I enjoyed it as well because it was the kind of place my parents had.
P&P: Since you left, have you ever been invited back to see the new arena or take part in team events or celebrations?
Mike Miller: No, I haven’t but if the invitation came out, I would be more than honored.
P&P: Do you see yourself coming back to the Devils one day? Is that a goal for you?
Mike Miller: I don’t think you can close the door on anything. I’m back in the booth. Once guys get a job, those are usually pretty long-term things. One of my best friends in the game, Chuck Kaiton, who does the Carolina Hurricanes broadcast…the first time I met him, we hit it off. He’s a Michigander. We still get together in the summer. He always keeps me posted on the NHL job openings, and believe me they are few and far between.
P&P: Last question, anything you would like to say or pass along to New Jersey Devils fans?
Mike Miller: I left with no bitterness. I cherish the 10 years I was there. Health issues every now and then forced me to think about things and make decisions. I love the fans. I still get calls; there’s one gentleman that still has a Mike Miller fan club that’s active in New Jersey, so I get a chuckle out of that and I think that’s great. It’s always going to be a career portion of my life that will be towards the top of my list. There are a lot of guys who aspire to go to the NHL. I will always be a New Jersey Devil at heart. The 10 years I was there was the pinnacle of my career. From Lou to everybody down, especially the fans more than anything else; they made my stay absolutely wonderful.
Thanks for reading. All feedback is appreciated.
Topics: Adam Henrique, Alex Delvecchio, Bill Guerin, Bob Boughner, Bob Cole, Bobby Hull, Bruce Driver, Carolina Hurricanes, Chico Resch, Chris Moore, Chuck Kaiton, Claude Lemieux, Dan Kelly, Danny Gallavin, Detroit Red Wings, Doc Emrick, Doug Gilmour, Florida Panthers, Foster Hewitt, Gordie Howe, Jacques Caron, Jacques Lemaire, John Hennessy, John Maclean, Larry Robinson, Lou Lamoriello, Martin Brodeur, Matt Laughlin, Mike Levine, Mike McCall, Mike Miller, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Randy Velischek, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Sergei Brylin, Sherry Ross, St. Louis Blues, Warren Rychel, Windsor Spitfires