When the Los Angeles Kings finally won the Stanley Cup title in 2012 — ending a 45-year drought — many fans assumed Bob Miller, the longtime “Voice of the Kings,” would retire.
After all, Miller had always said his biggest fear was that he would retire and the Kings would win the Stanley Cup the following season.
“Quite a few said, ‘Sorry you’re leaving. Aren’t you retiring now that they won the Cup?’ ” he said. “I just meant I didn’t want to retire and have them win the next year.
“I don’t have to worry about that anymore now.”
Miller, who will turn 75 on Oct. 12, shows no signs of slowing down as he embarks on his 41st season as the Kings’ play-by-play announcer — the first 17 simulcast on television and radio and the last 24 exclusively on TV (locally on FSW (49) and Prime (50)).
He called the Kings’ 4-1 preseason win over the New York Rangers on Friday night at Frozen Fury XV before a crowd of 11,410 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Miller said he still has a passion for the game and his profession.
“I still get excited about doing live television. Sports and news are about the only things left live on TV,” he said. “I’m excited for the start of a new season. If there comes a time at this time of year when I really dread the start of the season and all the travel and everything, that would be the time I don’t want to do it anymore. But so far I’m excited for each new year.”
The press box at Staples Center is named after Miller, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame who also has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and a “lifetime contract” with the Kings.
“I’m going to retire sometime,” he said. “We’re going year to year on my contract to see how I feel healthwise and everything else, but I still enjoy it.
“Of course, winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 was just fantastic. I really thought I was going to retire and never see the Kings win the Stanley Cup.”
Los Angeles’ title run was bittersweet for Miller, who was prevented from calling playoff games beyond the first round because of the NHL’s exclusive national broadcast contract with NBC.
“It was really so disappointing for myself and (longtime broadcast partner) Jim Fox not to be able to do those games after the first round,” he said.
Miller and Fox did call the Cup-clinching Game 6 victory over the New Jersey Devils for a commemorative DVD.
“This is for you, Kings players and Kings fans wherever you may be,” Miller said in the final minute of Game 6. “All the frustration, the disappointment of the past are gone. The 45-year drought is over. The Los Angeles Kings are indeed the kings of the National Hockey League, the 2012 Stanley Cup champions.”
Miller was treated like royalty after the victory, when right wing Dustin Brown searched for him on the ice to hand him the Cup. Miller was busy doing a postgame show at the time, but took part in the locker room celebration, sipping champagne from hockey’s holy grail.
“The players said, ‘You’ve got to drink from the Cup,’ ” Miller said. “I spilled it all over my shirt and tie, but nobody cared.”
With his wife, Judy, and their two children by his side at the team’s postgame party, Miller happily hoisted the Cup.
“Dustin Brown said, ‘I’ve been looking for you for two hours. Here.’ And he handed me the Cup,” he said.
Miller rode in the parade, which drew an estimated 250,000 fans to downtown Los Angeles, then served as master of ceremonies for the rally at Staples Center, during which Brown said “everything’s been perfect except for (not) having this guy call the game.”
A Chicago native, Miller began his broadcasting career at the University of Iowa and called hockey games for the University of Wisconsin before landing the L.A. job in 1973. He had applied for the position the year before — sending his tape to Chick Hearn, the legendary Los Angeles Lakers announcer who was put in charge of the search by original Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke.
“I don’t think (Hearn) knew a puck from an English muffin, but he was going to pick the announcer,” Miller said.
Cooke hired Roy Storey instead, but he left after one season, paving the way for Miller, who has more than held his own alongside iconic L.A. sportscasters and fellow Hall of Famers Vin Scully — who’s in his 64th season of doing Dodgers games — and the late Hearn, who called Lakers games for 42 years.
“They’re so beloved in this city, I’m just honored to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys,” Miller said. “It’s been a spectacular run for a lot of us here.”
Aside from the Kings’ championship, Miller said his most memorable moments were describing the plays on which Wayne Gretzky broke Gordie Howe’s NHL records for goals and points.
“When you’re in this business, those are the moments you want to be the guy to describe it,” he said. “Those were special moments.”
They’ve been special for his listeners, too.
■ NOTES — The MGM Grand and the Kings have extended their Frozen Fury partnership through 2016. … Anze Kopitar scored 15 seconds into the game for Los Angeles (3-2-1), and Jeff Carter and Mike Richards each added a power-play goal to give the Kings a 3-1 lead over the Rangers (1-5-0) after the first period. Trevor Lewis beat Henrik Lundqvist (29 saves) late in the second to cap the scoring. … Jonathan Quick stopped 22 of 23 shots for L.A., which is 11-3-2 in Frozen Fury games dating to 1997. … The Kings are 13-3-2 overall in exhibitions in Las Vegas, beating the Rangers at Caesars Palace in 1991 in the NHL’s first-ever outdoor exhibition game and topping New York at the Thomas &Mack Center in 1995.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.