Many years ago, during his first steps in the National Hockey League (NHL), Ryan Miller had a pretty crazy fantasy that finally came true about twenty years later: having his jersey retired by the Buffalo Sabers.
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The New York State team paid tribute to the man who defended his cage for a decade Thursday night before a game against the New York Islanders at the KeyBank Center.
In an interview with NHL.com, Miller said that while visiting the amphitheater in 2002, he dreamed of joining a very special trio of Saber legends: Quebecers Gilbert Perreault, Richard Martin and René Robert.
“I went here and saw the ‘French Connection’ and Tim Horton’s number, which were the only jerseys in the Heights at the time. I started imagining things. I looked up and thought, “Wow, I signed a contract with a pro team. We have banners up there, that would be nice, right?” “A real dream come true,” said the man who saw his number 29 jersey being hoisted to the top of the arena.
His shirt is also next to that of another goalkeeper, Dominik Hasek, who greeted him in a video on the big screen. Miller is also the most successful goaltender in Sabers history with 284 wins.
A chance to win every night
The 42-year-old American is the eighth player to have his shirt retired by the organization. Pat LaFontaine, 16, Danny Gare, 18, and Hasek, 39, were also honored between his debut and his retirement in 2021.
Eighteen former Sabers players, including Quebecers Jason Pominville and Derek Roy, but also former Montreal Canadiens Thomas Vanek, were present at the ceremony. The Austrian was very commendable to his ex-teammate.
“He was the backbone of this team. You knew he was ready every night. This has made him the ultimate professional and goalkeeper he has been throughout his career. For me as a player, I knew we had a chance to win every game because we had Ryan Miller,” Vanek said.
Even current Sabers hockey players got the message. Dylan Cozens broke a 2-2 draw after just 12 seconds of overtime. The KeyBank Center exploded with joy.
“The building was shaking. On a night like this, when the stands are packed celebrating the career of such an incredible player for this organization, Ryan Miller, you really want to win,” said Cozens. It really motivated us to win for him on this special night and win for the fans that came.
Miller also played for the St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks during his 18 seasons in the NHL. He finished with 391 wins in 796 duels.