LOS ANGELES -- As Bob Miller made his way from the media entrance to the press room of Staples Center last Sunday, he was spotted by Los Angeles Kings fans.
Among them was Traci Ito, 35, a lifelong fan who has known nothing but Miller's voice since she started watching the Kings as a kid. She couldn't help tell Miller that she wished he was calling the games.
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"A lot of people were saying that to him," Ito said. "I watched games for I don't know how many years. It's awkward to watch and not hear his voice."
Miller and his broadcasting partner, Jim Fox, are hearing that sentiment a lot during a seemingly once-every-generation run to the Stanley Cup Final by the Kings. Miller, a local treasure as the Kings' television play-by-play announcer since 1973, has worked beside Fox since he became color commentator in 1990.
They worked the Western Conference Quarterfinals before the NBC Sports Network and its affiliate stations took command of the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Miller and Fox still do pre-game and post-game shows, but both say it's tough not to be able to work the games.
"It's frustrating for me not to call it, and I'm sure also, because we've been here so many years -- Jim as a player and then as a broadcaster," Miller said. "You're with a team all year long and you're hoping to get to this point, and then you don't get a chance to do the games at a most exciting time of the season.
"But we knew this was going to happen. In 1993 we could do every game, and we did, right through the Stanley Cup Finals. But we've known for several years and we're not the only ones to go through this … but it is frustrating if it would come down to the Kings winning the Cup that you don't have a chance to make that statement right at the end of the game."
Fox also said it's tough to swallow, especially because he and Miller have endured nearly two decades worth of what Fox accurately described as "suffering" by Kings fans, who saw only one playoff series victory between their only other Final appearance in 1993 through last season.
Like Miller, Fox understands the predicament. A few kind words from fans go a long way, too.
"The fans have been incredibly supportive," Fox said. "In all honestly, it makes you feel better about the situation. We knew the situation coming in … you'd like to be able to share with the fans. When they say stuff like that, it makes you feel like you're sharing it with them."
Miller, 73, is part of the triumvirate of Los Angeles Hall of Fame announcers that includes Vin Scully of the Dodgers and the late Chick Hearn, the longtime Lakers play-by-play man whose statue sits outside Staples Center. The press box at Staples Center is named after Miller, ironic considering Miller isn't in his customary booth during the games.
He sits in the front row of the press box with the writers and takes notes for the pre-game and post-game shows with Fox.
"The strange part is not preparing for the actual telecast," Miller said. "It's totally different than doing the play-by-play."
Fox, 52, is a former Kings player that transitioned into an award-winning analyst. He was named best analyst in hockey by Sports Illustrated in 2006. Like Miller, he watches from the press box.
"It is extremely different," Fox said. "I find myself yelling at referees. It's different when you're on the air because the focus is more on your job. It's certainly something I don't enjoy, not only because we can't share with the fans what we've worked on all year or with this team for Bob, 39 years and for me, 22. But at the same time I just don't handle it well from the start. I'm a basket case during the games."
Miller and Fox did their on-air "goodbye" at the end of Game 3 of the quarterfinals, but both ended up working Game 5 when the Vancouver Canucks extended the series.
"It is extremely different. I find myself yelling at referees. It's different when you're on the air because the focus is more on your job. It's certainly something I don't enjoy, not only because we can't share with the fans what we've worked on all year or with this team for Bob, 39 years and for me, 22. But at the same time I just don't handle it well from the start. I'm a basket case during the games."
-- Kings broadcaster Jim Fox on watching the games and not announcing
Miller's call of Jarret Stoll's overtime winner in Game 5 will be the last time this season that Kings fans will hear him call a series-winning goal: "Two-on one. Stoll shoots. He scores! The Kings have eliminated Vancouver! And the Kings are moving on to the semifinals of the Western Conference!"
Team spokesman Michael Altieri confirmed that there has been a discussion about possibly having Miller and Fox call a potential Cup-clinching game, outside the NBC broadcast, if the Kings got in that position. The logistics are tricky, but the idea would be to record a Miller-Fox "broadcast" for later availability to fans, perhaps on DVD or the Internet.
Miller and Fox are somewhat reluctant to talk about it, largely out of fear of jinxing it. Fox acknowledged what it would mean for him and the fans, though.
"It's sweeter because of all the suffering," Fox said. "Through all the down times, it makes it sweeter. It really does. I think you hear it in other sports where, if you get to the finals, you know you've had a good year. I don't even think it's a superstition, but I don't want to talk about that until we're there."