Charlie Minn’s Bob Miller documentary benefiting the Kings Care Foundation premieres on December 5.
It’s not surprising that the friendship between Bob Miller and filmmaker Charlie Minn grew out of an unsolicited act of friendship by the Kings’ Hall of Fame play by play broadcaster.
Last decade, Minn, then a member of the visiting team’s television crew for New York Islanders games, was struck by Miller’s affability the first time the two had ever met.
“He just treats everyone with respect, it doesn’t matter what part of the crew you’re on,” Minn said. “I came in and I was wearing a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt, and I remember his first words to me were ‘Are you a Packers fan?’ We’ve been great friends since.
“Bob, being from the Midwest, he makes you feel so comfortable. It’s a very cut-throat business being in live television, but he just makes everyone feel very comfortable.”
That subject – the honest and humble detailed account of a live sporting event is a central tenet of Miller’s love of broadcasting and is explored in Minn’s latest documentary, Voice of the King: The Bob Miller Story. The film premieres at Regal LA Live Cinemas on December 5 and will also be available on DVD shortly after the theatrical run, with proceeds going to the Kings Care Foundation.
“George Clooney’s career is safe,” Miller joked.
Miller’s exhilaration of calling a live broadcast is detailed through interviews and archival footage. Highlights spanning the Hall of Famer’s 42-year account of Los Angeles Kings hockey – and broadcasts predating his move to Los Angeles from Wisconsin – will be aired, along with interviews with his wife, Judy, television analyst Jim Fox, radio play by play broadcaster Nick Nickson, and other figures central to Miller’s objective and informative play by play call, including Wayne Gretzky.
Though the running time is 80 minutes, the volume of interviews and historical Kings footage compiled left its subject intrigued by what would make it into the final project.
“Like I say, it’s a little nerve-racking to see what is going to come up on this big screen,” Miller said. “When I walked over to the theater the other day before a Kings game just to see the trailer, as they were playing things I was getting a little nervous. ‘Oh, it’s coming up next.’ It’s just a different version to see it on a huge screen like that and see what the reception is going to be.”
The idea of the project was borne out of discussions between Minn, Miller and Kings owner Ed Roski that began prior to the Kings’ first Stanley Cup in 2012. At first, Miller was reluctant to have a documentary made about his career, but in the crescendo to the team’s second championship, with the team in New York and holding a series lead over the Rangers, discussions solidified and backing was sought out.
“…When we were in New York for the final and we’re up three games to none, I met with [Charlie] and he said, ‘Look, this is the time to do it. You’re going to win a second Stanley Cup. From interest standpoint, this is the time we should do something on this,’” Miller said. “So I said, ‘Well, OK.’ And we started to talk about who might be able to back it. So he contacted Ed Roski.”
Less than one week later, the most ideal circumstances led to Roski’s backing. The Kings were parading the Cup around the Staples Center playing surface as the Kings’ owner approached Miller on the ice as bedlam engulfed the 18,713 fans surrounding the rink.
“…He said ‘Just one quick thing, do you want to do this film? You tell me. If you want to do it, I’ll back it. If you say no, we won’t do it. And all the celebration is going on and he said ‘I think it would be a good thing for you and a good thing for the team and it can be for Kings Care Foundation,’” Miller recalled of the on-ice, post-championship meeting. “And I said, ‘OK that’s fine with me.’”
“Ed and I met a few times and if it wasn’t for Ed there is no film,” Minn said.
Said Miller: “So that really got the green light then to go ahead and start it. Charlie came out to LA and interviewed a lot of people and got some footage of the Kings, old footage of me starting out in Wisconsin on TV and everything. And of course I tell some stories about things that went on during my career with the Kings. I’m anxious. I haven’t seen the final version yet and I’m kind of anxious to see it. I’ve only seen the trailer and I said the other day, ‘They played the trailer before the showing of Dumb and Dumber -- I think that’s appropriate.’”
That humble charm exuded by Miller – and his profound storytelling ability – served as the impetus to explore this project.
“When Bob Miller says it, you feel as if it takes on a greater importance,” Minn said. “There was one story where he was telling me about how Butch Goring scored a goal in the 1976 playoffs in overtime. His teammates put Butch on their shoulders and just the way he was saying it, you could see it. You could visualize it.”
Recollections of his start in broadcasting, of original Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke, of Gretzky, and of watching the Kings evolve into two-time Stanley Cup winners will be among the topics explored through an array of interviews weaved together with team footage.
“Somebody said ‘Don’t give away the ending,’” Miller said. “Well, I hope the ending isn’t finished yet.”