BUFFALO – If you’ve spent any time following Ryan Miller’s career, then you’re aware the Sabres goalie might be the NHL’s most passionate player.
Miller says whatever he thinks, a rarity in sports today. Sometimes he’s lauded for it. Other times he’s flayed for it.
But he’ll stand up for whatever he believes is right.
So it’s hardly surprising details are emerging that Miller, one of the 18 or so players negotiating with owners in New York trying to end the 82-day NHL lockout, became emotional during some heated collective bargaining talks Wednesday.
From the Toronto Star: “Earlier, Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller had angrily vented when the owners said they were disappointed with the players’ responses to an earlier offer and threatened to pull everything off the table.”
From Sportnet: “It was Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller who lost his temper briefly, which seemed to encourage further dialogue.”
Before the lockout began in September, Miller questioned why NHL commissioner Gary Bettman still had a job. He later called the comments “tongue-in-cheek,” although he never really backed away from them.
“If he’s really doing what he says he’s doing, why is he still employed?” Miller said Sept. 14 inside the Northtown Center. “Our case is he’s doing what the owners want him to do. The league is healthy. The league makes money. There are definitely teams that need help, and we feel we came up with a way to assist them in doing that.
“We don’t want to go down the same path we went to last time and always end up with another situation where they want to lock us out. It can’t be every single time we negotiate, ‘Oh, we’re going to lock the players out.’ We have to build the game. We have to have respect for the fans, and it’s too much.”
The 32-year-old began displaying his emotions just a handful of games into his career. Back in 2003, when Miller was a neophyte netminder on a bad Sabres team, he nearly broke down after a couple of wretched losses. Once, he was so angry with his play, he refused questions from reporters and instead issued a statement.
Consider what Miller has said just in the last year or so:
November 7, 2011, after rookie backup Jhonas Enroth had briefly pushed a slumping Miller out of the lineup:
“But I want to be called upon. I’m working, getting myself ready to play. I don’t want things to get mixed up. I’m here to win. That’s the emotion you get from me. If I’m discouraged and if I’m (ticked) off, that’s just how it is.
“I want to win. I don’t want to be out there getting scored on. I don’t want to be pulled out of the game. I want to (expletive) win the game.”
November 12, 2011, after Boston’s Milan Lucic’s had leveled Miller:
“I just stuck around because I want to say what a piece of (expletive) I think Lucic is. Fifty pounds on me, and he runs me like that? That’s unbelievable. Everyone in this city sees him as a big, tough, solid player. I respected him for how hard he played. That was gutless, gutless. Piece of (expletive).”
November 30, 2011, when rumors had been swirling the Sabres planned to deal a struggling Miller:
“I have a long history here. I feel like I’ve grown up here. This is where I want to win. … There’s no better place to win. The fans love hockey. I think that I’ve worked hard as a player and I’ve worked hard to be a part of the community. I feel a part of things here. Why would I want to leave that?”
Jan. 16, on if a trade would help the slumping team after Detroit had pummeled Miller and the Sabres:
“There’s not ever going to be a trade in the history of the NHL that’s going to affect anything like that. There’s no chance anybody comes into this team and just shake it up or we can even move multiple players and get any kind of return. … If you want to destroy a team and just go out and be reckless and do something, yeah.”
Feb. 28, after the Sabres had traded Miller’s close friend Paul Gaustad:
“A pretty tough day. I’m not going to lie. I’m not real happy about the way it all turned out. But that’s the business of hockey.”