Michael Owen Baker/Staff Writer
Bob Miller has a room full of memories at his West Hills home.
A Hollywood party planner couldn’t have arranged things much better in Bob Miller’s favor.
The NHL first scheduled the Kings’ 2012-13 season opener against the New York Rangers at Staples Center on Friday — Miller’s 74th birthday.
And since the Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster wouldn’t be called upon to call the game for Fox Sports West — the NBC Sports Network had the contest to televise nationally — it meant he could join his wife Judy and members of his family, receive the gift of a Stanley Cup championship ring, watch the banner raised to the rafters and soak in this coronation that would mark the start of his 40th season with the team.
Somewhere along the way, a party pooper popped up.
This latest NHL lockout has locked Miller as well as every other Kings fan from the arena tonight, canceling this game as well as the first two weeks.
Miller’s backup plan could have included watching his 6-year-old grandson Brennon go to hockey practice in Simi Valley, but he’s opted to push the party with his family to Sunday and go out to dinner with friends Friday. Then call it a night.
Checking in with Miller at his home in West Hills on Thursday morning, he wasn’t going to let a little rain dampen his parade:
Michael Owen Baker/Daily News
Bob and Judy Miller, at their West Hills home on Thursday.
Q: Are you going to be satisfied with delayed gratification when it comes to the birthday gift the Kings had ready for you? How’s that sitting with you?
A; Well, I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with that, but from a selfish standpoint it would have been really nice – and what a coincidence having opening night on my birthday. It would have been special, but it’s not going to happen, can’t do anything about it. But I’m sure a lot of fans and others are frustrated that, of all seasons, we’re not going to start on time year with all the momentum the Kings had winning the Stanley Cup and then all the momentum built this summer.
My wife and I had been excited about this night since the schedule was announced – but again, it’s not just a disappointment for me but everyone in the organization. There was so much demand for tickets on opening night, I had heard more than for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final. Everyone wanted to be there to see that banner go up. It’ll happen sometime, you know. And it’ll still be thrilling, but it would have been nice to happen on time and the regular schedule.
Q: Has the euphoria of the Cup celebration this summer been tempered by the lockout?
A: I think maybe in a way, although when you to go places where the Cup has been – and it’s been to so many places in Southern California this summer and now it’s back – I still see the excitement of all the fans. It hasn’t tempered that at all. Probably from an organization standpoint, it’s been tempered with not going ahead with plans we had to get the season started. I think that’ll come back, we’ll have an opening night at home, the one people have waited so many years to celebrate.
Q: You had some frustration in May and June in not being able to call the playoff games on TV. Is there a comparison to the frustration felt now?
A: For the playoffs, we knew that would happen. It wasn’t a surprise dropped on us. It’s happened to other teams in other sports. It was still frustrating not to be able to do it. It was weird not preparing for the actual telecast, just making notes for the postgame shows. We taped broadcasts for a DVD that will be out to benefit KingsCare soon and in my mind I felt like I was doing those games live, treating it just like a telecast, not that we were just taping them. That was fun to be able to make the calls on the goals and say what I wanted to say.
Bob Miller, right, speaks to students at a USC sports, business and media class taught by Jeff Fellenzer, left, on Wednesday night.
Q: Four months later do you wake up wondering if that night in June after Game 6 really did happen?
A: Not so much now, but for a week afterward we did. ‘Did we really see that happen?’ What I still get a thrill now is seeing that reference every time you see the Kings – the Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings. Quite honestly, a reference we thought we may never see happen or ever see that printed.
Q: Some have asked me this about you, so I thought I would pass it on: The Stanley Cup has so many names engraved for each winning team, not just players but all kinds of team personnel. Any thoughts about cool it would have been to have your name on there, too?
A: I would have been nice but I really don’t think that should happen. I don’t know if any announcers have ever been on the Cup down through the years. The only one that might have been is Foster Hewitt, because he started as the first “Hockey Night in Canada” play-by-play man and did it so many years. Really, I don’t think my name or any announcer’s name should be on there. We really didn’t have a hand in it. Although I know there are a lot of names that are marginal of whether they should be on there or not in having really something to actually do with the team winning, I didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t expect it and I’m not disappointed that it’s not on there.
Q: Going back to the 2004-05 season that was completely wiped out — what kind of things did you do to keep your sanity? And are they on your short list to do again to distract yourself from the fact there aren’t games to do?
A: One of the things I did was take Judy to some college football games, at the University of Iowa (his alma mater). We went back to see Iowa beat Ohio State 33-7 and then went to the Capital One Bowl against LSU in Florida and saw them win there on the last play. I also took 12 lessons at the Magic Castle in Hollywood to learn how to do card tricks. I’ve always been fascinated by that.
You become a creature of habit this time of year, planning road trips, preparing for games. A lockout or a delay in the season is never something you get used to. It always feels like a new experience you have to get through.
Q: The off season was definitely a new experience for you. Were you energized by it or can it be tiring after all the festivities?
A: At times, it’s been a little of both. We went to so many parties – 11 of them just for the Stanley Cup appearances – but we wanted to go to them. Not only were we energized but it was so great to see the fans’ enthusiasm. But you can also see what they talk about with having a ‘Stanley Cup hangover’ – your summer is shorter, and I wonder how much the parties cut into offseason workouts for the players. You’re expected to be in shape when camp starts. Maybe that has something to do with the fact no team has repeated as Stanley Cup champs since 1997-98.
Q: So maybe for the Kings this lockout is a blessing in disguise?
A: It might be. I’d prefer to start on time but with more time off now after all the parties are done, maybe the players can concentrate better now on getting ready for the season.
Q: Do you know if you’re even allowed to discuss the lockout situation? There is some gray area as to whether you’re a Kings employee or if you’re paid by Fox Sports West. How do you handle those opinions about what’s going on?
A: From the league’s perspective, I may even be considered part of Kings’ management. So it might just be safer for me just to not reply to any kind of commenting. Without taking any sides in who’s right or wrong, it’s just frustrating for myself and for fans to read that days go by now when the players and owners don’t even meet to get anything done. You wish they’d just get into a room and not come out until it’s done. You see the millions of dollars already lost because of canceled games. Why wouldn’t they want to get something done?
Q: So aside from the off-season parties, you’ve updated your autobiography with new chapters that hopefully will come out soon, you’ve enjoyed time you’re your two grandkids (including 8-year-old Kaden) – no new Stanley Cup tattoos?
A: No, I didn’t manage to get any tattoos. . .
Q: But there is a photo on the Internet of you without your shirt on at a golf event. What’s the story there?
A: Well, there was a charity tournament last Monday in Glendora for an organization called Sowing Seeds for Life, and I spent the afternoon with Vicky Brown, who started this group with her own $100 and now is able to feed 6,000 people each month in the San Gabriel Valley with home-grown fruits and vegetables. They had an auction during the dinner that night, and an item came up for something that had been bid up to $2,500. The auctioneer said: ‘Who’ll bid $3,000?’ And one gentleman said, ‘I’ll give $3,000 if Bob Miller throws in his Stanley Cup shirt.’ I was wearing a golf shirt with the Kings logo and a Stanley Cup patch on it. At first I hesitated, but then I said: ‘You’ll give $3,000 for this?’ And I pulled my shirt off, and the place went crazy laughing and cheering. So he won it, and we traded shirts. I knew my wife wouldn’t be sure I even attended a golf tournament when I came home with a different shirt. And she noticed: ‘Where’d you get that shirt?’ And I explained. And she said: ‘But those are your pants, right?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do have some standards.’
Photo by Martin Leon, via Arcadia.Patch.com
Don Dirian of San Dimas, left, got Bob Miller’s shirt.