Random Cities: Bob Miller
October 10, 2011 Leave a comment
Puck the Media’s bi-weekly feature, Random Cities, takes you inside the world of broadcasting from an angle you might not have seen before. We take each personality through various cities that have impacted their life and/or career, and let them elaborate with stories and memories about each. Enjoy.
This Week’s Subject: The legendary Bob Miller, who has been the play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Kings (currently on FS West) since 1973. He is a recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, and is the only man associated with hockey to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
City #1: Nashville, Tennessee
Bob Miller: I like country music. I play guitar, but not real well, so Nashville is one of my favorite NHL cities. We stay downtown, so the country music honky-tonks are just a block away. I especially like it when we are in Nashville a day before we play. I visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry and at night go to the various music places.One of the most famous is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, located right behind the world famous Ryman Auditorium, the home of the Grand Ole Opry. The story goes that in the heyday of the “Opry” the various performers would go to Tootsie’s, and play a few songs until they had to be on stage at the Opry. They would then go out the back door of Tootsie”s and on stage at the Ryman.One day I was in Tootsie’s, having a cranberry juice by the way, when the performer on stage asked if anyone would like to come on stage and sing. I was tempted but chickened out. It would have been my chance at glory in Nashville.One night, my former partner on the telecasts on L.A., Pete Weber, now the voice of the Nashville Predators, and his wife Claudia got us backstage at the Opry while the show was in progress. It was a thrill to see behind the scenes and meet the performers personally.I’m happy that Nashville is in the NHL.
City #2: London, England
BM: In the 2007-08 season the Kings opened with regular season games in London, England. We played the Anaheim Ducks in two games at the beautiful O2 Arena located on the shores of the Thames River. Our hotel was also right on the river at Canary Wharf and due to the traffic congestion in London it was faster to take sightseeing boats to the Arena. It was the first time in Kings history that the team went to games in boats.
It was thrilling to see 18,000 fans at the games in London wearing not only NHL jerseys of their favorite teams but also the jerseys of numerous European hockey teams. The oddity was that the Kings and Ducks travelled some 5,000 miles to play each other when they are located only 30 miles apart in Southern California.
City #3: Montreal, Quebec
BM: The most exciting finish to a Kings season was in 1993. The Kings did not have a great regular season, finishing third in the Smythe Division with 39 wins and 88 points. But, the playoffs were a different story. Led by the hot goaltending of Kelly Hrudey, the Kings, in spite of opening every playoff series on the road, advanced to the Stanley Cup finals. The Kings beat Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto to earn the right to play Montreal for the Stanley Cup.
I went to the media headquarters at a Montreal hotel to get my press credentials. While in the elevator returning to the lobby, a woman asked me, “What is the Stanley Cup?” I couldn’t believe my ears, getting that question in Montreal of all places. I began looking for Alan Funt because I thought I was on Candid Camera. She explained that she was from the United Kingdom so I told her the Stanley Cup was like the World Cup in soccer. As the elevator doors opened there was the Stanley Cup on display in the lobby so she got a first hand look.
Unfortunately after winning game one, the Kings lost four straight, three in overtime, and Montreal won the cup 4 games to one.
City #4: Anaheim, California
BM: I guess I would be the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first voice of the Mighty Ducks?” I have never worked for the NHL Ducks but I was the play by play announcer in the Disney movies Mighty Ducks and D2: The Mighty Ducks.
The first film I simply did the play by play voice which we recorded at the same Disney studio where they recorded Alice in Wonderland. In Mighty Ducks 2 I had a scene on camera, and I don’t think I would enjoy being a movie actor. Too much time is spent waiting to do your scene.
I was told to be at the arena in Anaheim, which is 70 miles from my house, at 10 a.m. Just before I left my house at 8 a.m. they called an said to be there at noon. I arrived at noon to do my 30 second scene but we didn’t film it until 7:30 that night.
The funny part of being in those films was that during the NHL season several players in the league said to me, “You’re on in my house every day”. Their kids would watch those movies every day of the week.
City #5: Los Angeles, California
BM: In spite of popular belief the Kings have had numerous exciting moments since coming into the NHL in 1967.
In the 1982 playoffs, the Kings staged what is still the greatest single game comeback in Stanley Cup Playoff history. It took place on April 10, 1982. The Kings and heavily favored Edmonton Oilers were tied at one game apiece in their best of five opening round. That night the Oilers had a 5-0 lead at the end of two periods. In the third period the Kings scored 5 unanswered goals, the last one with 0:05 seconds left to tie the game and sent it into overtime. The Forum in L.A. was in a frenzy. Two and a half minutes into overtime rookie Doug Smith won a faceoff in the Oilers zone and another rookie Daryl Evans sent a laser shot over the right shoulder of goalie Grant Fuhr and the Kings won 6-5.
That game has lived on in Kings history as the “Miracle on Manchester” named after the street that ran past the Forum. The most exciting moment for Kings fans, off the ice, was on August 9, 1988 when the Kings acquired Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers in a trade that shocked the sports world. Kings fans snapped up 4,000 season tickets in a few days and the team became the highest profile team in the NHL.
On October 15, 1989 Gretzky became the greatest scorer in NHL history passing Gordie Howe with his 1,851st point. I was fortunate enough to call the play by play of that historic moment and capped the call of his record setting point by saying, “The Great One has become the greatest of them all, the all time leading scorer in the history of the National Hockey League.”
The second historic night came in Los Angeles on March 23, 1994 when Gretzky became the greatest goal scorer in NHL history with his 802nd goal, again passing Gordie Howe. I capped that call by saying, “Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record book is now complete, he’s the all time leader in points, assists and now with his 802nd goal the all time leading goal scorer in the history of the National Hockey League.”
Another thrilling moment for Kings fans was in the spring of 1993 when the Kings played Montreal in the Stanley Cup Finals. After the first two games in Montreal, which the teams split, the series shifted to the Forum in Los Angeles. The night of June 5, 1993 was a night Kings fans had been waiting for a long time. I remember seeing fans below our TV booth toasting each other with champagne as the Stanley Cup was paraded out to center ice. It was a sight some Kings fans thought they would never see. Unfortunately the fans never got to see it on the ice again as Montreal won the series four games to one.
(Special thanks to Rudy Kelly from Battle of California for his help)