I knew the trade was coming and yet when I received the breaking sports news text that Ryan Miller was not on the ice for pre game warm ups on Friday night, my first thought was “Holy (censored) its actually going down!”
I was out running errands but I stopped to get on twitter so I could find out more details. When I saw the tweets about Miller going to St. Louis, I immediately thought “I guess I’ll be rooting for the Blues in the playoffs.”
I then went about the rest of my business not feeling any emotion at all about the trade of the winningest goalie in Buffalo Sabres history.
The emotion didn’t hit me until I saw Miller step to the podium for the goodbye press conference held during the first intermission of the Sabres game with San Jose.
It was at that moment that sadness came over me as we bid farewell to one of the more popular and beloved athletes in Buffalo sports history.
The Sabres did the right thing even though it probably left many of their faithful fans heartbroken. Moving Miller for assets as opposed to giving him a new, long term contract was the course of action General Manager Tim Murray had to take as he attempts to rebuild the franchise.
As I watched Miller struggle to come up with the proper words as he bid farewell, it felt the same as a parent watching his son or daughter move out of the house and start life on their own.
There are a number of things I will remember about Miller, who spent more than a third of his life in Western New York.
Leading the Sabres to back to back conference finals in 2006 and 2007 and then winning the Vezina Trophy in 2010 are at the top of the list.
He wasn’t wearing a Sabres uniform at the time but one of my favorite Miller memories will certainly be the 2010 Olympics. I’ll always remember the feeling of pride watching “our guy” lead “our country” to a silver medal.
I’ll also remember the final game of last season when it appeared Miller might have made his final appearance in Sabres blue and gold. The way he acted after the game, his acknowledgements to the crowd in the post game ceremonies and the ovation he received all looked like a player and community saying good bye to each other.
I’ve always been impressed with Miller’s professionalism, his class, and even though it got him into hot water at times, the ability to wear his heart on his sleeve. Miller’s career reminds us once again how a special bond can be formed between a player and the community that player calls home. He was a model citizen off the ice and never cast the Sabres or Western New York in a bad light.
Miller did not become the first goalie to lead the Sabres to a Stanley Cup but his legacy will be that he goes down as the second best goalie in franchise history to Dominik Hasek.
It was time to move on but it doesn’t make the departure any easier. In the meantime, I look forward to watching the Blues in the playoffs and rooting for Miller to get his name on the Stanley Cup.