DETROIT — Kelly Miller spent 15 seasons in the NHL playing with and against a wealth of talented hockey players. Several years removed from his playing career, Miller now serves as an assistant coach for Michigan State University where he has seen the next generation of hockey players — many of which have ties to his former teammates — come up through the ranks and into the college hockey circles.
“I’m pretty new to the college hockey world in terms of recruiting and all of that,” Miller said. “There are a lot of players that I’ve played with out there that I see their kids coming through and I bump into them in the ice rinks and its kind of fun to do that. It’s interesting to see things come full circle where you’re playing with these guys and seeing them in the locker room or seeing them line up across from you on the ice and all of a sudden you’re seeing them in a whole different role in terms of them either parenting or coaching.”
Miller spent the majority of his NHL career with the Washington Capitals where he skated with Peter Bondra and Todd Krygier. Now, Miller spends his time coaching both of their sons, David Bondra and Brock Krygier, bridging the gap between two generations of hockey players.
Both listed as redshirt sophomores, Bondra and Krygier came to MSU as part of the same recruiting class but both said that was a non-factor in their decisions to commit to the university.
“It’s cool to think about but obviously we were really young when we knew each other,” Krygier said. “I think maybe I was three or four, he was five. So I don’t really remember meeting him when we were younger. It’s almost like our relationship started when we came to school here.”
A relationship that started on the first day.
“I do remember Brock, not as a person but I remember playing on his green slide in his back yard,” Bondra said. “Our moms were obviously good friends and they would hang out and what not. Mr. Krygier played with my dad. Us as kids, we would play and we would go to each other’s houses and I remember when we would go to his house and play in his back yard and that green slide. So when I first came here freshman year, I didn’t necessarily know him as a person but the first day I went up to him and was like, ‘Hey, you’re Brock right?’ and he’s like ‘Yeah’ and I said, ‘I remember your green slide’ and he just started laughing because he remembered it as well. Pretty funny the way that we met.”
|Son of former NHL player Peter Bondra, forward David Bondra plays at Michigan State working with assistant coach Kelly Miller, a former teammate of David's father. (Michigan State Athletics) |
Now roommates, the two Spartans are sharing an apartment near campus, only furthering the connection between their families.
“It worked out perfect,” Bondra said. “We both came in the same class. We were friends obviously when we were little and from day one here so it was a no brainer to become a roommate with him. He’s a great guy and our families still talk, our moms still talk and whatnot. It’s a good little story.”
As a coach, Miller has been able to have an impact on both players at the college level. But it’s the parents who played a large role in their development as a child.
“He taught me everything I know about the game,” Bondra said about his dad. “He taught me how to skate, how to pass, how to shoot. He still watches all my games, he critiques my games. I take a lot from him he really helped me out a lot growing up as a hockey player and as a person. The thing with my mom is, my mom was always there when my dad was on the road so I give a lot of credit to my mom as well.”
Similarly, Krygier influenced the way his son learned the game, serving as his coach for much of his youth. While their styles are very different, Todd Krygier was a forward and his son is a defenseman, dad still has impacted his son’s game immensely.
“Just from what he knows about the game has really shaped the way I play the game,” Brock Krygier said. “Overall, the years of development, he’s probably been my biggest catalyst in the way that I play and shape my game.”
Such a dynamic connection with the two families could present a challenging situation for Miller to maintain, having a relationship with both the fathers and now the sons. He said that has never been a concern, though, and that all parties involved want what’s best for the player.
“It hasn’t been too difficult,” Miller said. “The key is that both of those kids are wonderful kids and they work hard and they give you their best every day whether it’s in the classroom or on the ice. Whenever that’s happening, that’s a good feeling and you want to see these guys not only progress on the ice but you want to see them progress off the ice in terms of their life after hockey.”
The four-team Great Lakes Invitational tournament will kick off on Sunday, Dec. 28 with a doubleheader between Michigan and Michigan Tech at 3:30 p.m. and Michigan State and Ferris State at 7 p.m. The winners of those contests will advance to the championship game on Monday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m., while the other two will meet in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. on the same day.
All four games of the GLI will be televised live on FOX Sports Detroit Plus.
Individual tickets for all 2014 GLI are now on sale at the JLA box office (313-471-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at OlympiaEntertainment.com.