With some twelve years of professional service under his belt, the 6’4” American born defenceman has already achieved success in the game at the international level, helping his native U.S. hockey team win a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. To be awarded an Olympic medal while on native soil, most definitely ranks as an overwhelming experience.
“You feel a lot of pride and it doesn’t get any better than that,” says Miller. “It was in the States and my whole family was there so it was something special. I have never won a Stanley Cup, so that’s as close as I’ve come to winning anything really big, and I’ll always have that Silver medal.”
Having never secured hockey’s most coveted prize, those who toil in the game ultimately realize that as far as professional achievements on the ice go, everything pales in comparison.
As the newest member of the Vancouver Canucks hockey club, Miller now feels the chances of achieving such are suddenly well within his grasp.
“They had a heck of a season last year and they’ve certainly built this team in the right direction,” he says. “To win a Stanley Cup, you’ve got to build from the goaltender out and that seems to be what they’ve done here, and they’ve got a really deep defensive core. As long as we score some goals, we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.”
Aaron Miller was signed by the Vancouver Canucks as a free agent in the off season, having played for the Los Angeles Kings for the previous six seasons. While that experience wasn’t as rewarding as he might have hoped, the opportunity to open a new chapter in his professional life could be just what’s needed at this point in his career.
“I really felt for me that it was time for a change,” he says. “I’d been in Los Angeles for six years and we weren’t having a whole lot of success there. It’s going to be difficult for my family. I have three kids and it’s a heck of a change for them, but I think once we get situated, they’re going to really love it, because during the time I’ve been here, I do, and I know that being in a hockey market is going to be a lot of fun for all of us.”
Born in Buffalo, New York, the 36 year old Miller has amassed a total of 110 points through 620 games played with three different NHL teams.
Asked to describe what Vancouver hockey fans should expect from the hulking blueliner, Miller sums it up.
“I’m a defensive defenceman,” he says. “I try and take care of my own end and as simply as I can, get the puck up to the forwards, clear the front of the net so that the goalie can see the puck, and play hard-nosed hockey. I think I’ve been around a long time and Vancouver has got some young kids here, so I think I can be a help to them as well.”
A visitor to Vancouver over the course of his NHL career, Miller acknowledges that while he may not be as familiar on the make-up of his new teammates as he’ll soon become, he has had numerous occasions to play against the Canucks through the years, and feels fortunate for having the added advantage of plying his trade in a city that lives and breathes for its hockey team.
“Having been in Los Angeles for the last six years, the vibe isn’t really so much hockey there as there’s a lot of things going on, a lot of other sports and the whole Hollywood thing,” says Miller. “I’m really excited to be playing hockey in Canada. Just from being here for the past few weeks, I can see even in the middle of August that there’s hockey on the front page of the sports pages. The pressure is here, but if you win, it’s going to be great.”
In addition to his NHL service, Aaron Miller has played internationally for Team USA, earning bronze in his first World Championship series as well as participating in two Winter Olympics. While the opportunity to play at the Olympic level is something few athletes can lay claim to, Miller found the overall experience to be somewhat of a whirlwind.
“It’s kind of different than I imagined,” he says. “I was playing in the NHL and then two days later, you’re playing in the Olympics. You’re not there for the opening ceremonies or any of that, so you’re kind of rushed in and rushed out, but it was great and we did really well and had a shot at the gold. It’s something I’ll always remember but it was a little different than I would have expected just in the fact that you’re playing and then you’re gone. You kind of miss the whole Olympic experience.”
Making the transition from playing hockey in the U.S to the northern climes shouldn’t pose any major cultural adjustment. The same however, cannot be said about Miller’s previous Canadian stint as a member of the then Quebec Nordiques.
“I had no clue what I was doing back then,” he joked. “I just kind of went to the rink and then back to the hotel. That was difficult, but I was a kid and I was playing in the NHL and I could care less really. It was a lot of fun, and they definitely like their hockey there.”
Looking ahead to his new environment, Aaron Miller is rarin’ to go and enthusiastic to again be playing in a city that’s hockey crazy.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting,” he says. “It’s Canada’s game and it’s what they take seriously. On sports shows, it’s all about hockey, so I’m really pumped to play in a town where hockey is on everyone’s mind”.