This week, I had the chance to talk to Ryan Miller, former all star and silver medalist who is the current starting goaltender for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. While Miller is mostly known for making acrobatic saves, Miller is also very musically talented. In this Q&A Miller discusses his RHCP/Jack White fandom, potential NHL expansion, wanting to jam with the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, the upcoming NHL season among other topics.
First, I wanted to get into some music discussion. Back when you were a member of the Buffalo Sabres you would hold these charity events called “Catwalk for Charity”, which were musically oriented. You’ve performed with members of several well-known artists, such as The Goo Goo Dolls, and The Mavericks, to name a few. Would you reminisce a bit about those events and share some of your favorite memories? I talked to (Drew) Stafford a few months ago and he brought up a hilarious story about Steve Montador playing guitar and not realizing it wasn’t plugged in.
I think the coolest event was when Drew Stafford and I got a chance to play back up to Ronan Tynan and the Buffalo Philharmonic. Ronan’s life story and his amazing voice are inspirational. To be around him and to be associated with him was very cool.
Would there be any chance of your doing any sort of charity events like that again during your tenure in Vancouver?
I would like to host an event but I want to let relationships and social involvement evolve naturally. I had a couple years in Buffalo to establish myself and I knew that people would come out to have a good time and to listen to the message of helping people in the community. In Vancouver I want to get to know the city and learn about what is going on in the region with respect to the young people and the families that are battling cancer. That way I can understand in what way I can help best.
Another interesting thing, with the charity shows, is how many former teammates you’ve performed with. I saw a couple of videos from the old shows, and between you and Derek Roy rockin’ Pearl Jam, and you and the likes of Stafford and others jamming as well, it’s pretty remarkable how many NHLers are pretty talented musically. Henrik Lundqvist is another one that comes to mind. If you could form a “supergroup” with NHLers who would be in it?
I have met a lot of guys that play… for me the original group of guys who would get together and jam while we were in Rochester was Derek Roy, Tom Askey and Steve Lingren. That was the most fun and what I would like to do again. I would love to get the boys together. I will be near Steve Lingren again as he is in Victoria, BC. I still talk to Tom Askey and obviously have spent a lot of time with Derek. I think Drew Stafford would have to come onboard because he is so talented. He is definitely a legitimate musician.
Ryan Miller and Drew Stafford performing with The Mavericks during one of his charity events
A lot of people either are in-different or complain towards over the current state of rock music right now. Are there any new bands that you like right now, have impressed you, and do you think it’s possible for any new acts to come out and shake things up today like what happened like we saw a few decades back with grunge supplanting hair metal’s presence?
If I hear a song I that I like, I listen to it and try to learn about the group. Any group that puts at least one song out there that people can listen to and relate to should be respected. I am a little scared of the current cookie cutter pop hits getting too far into my head. My buddy Brad Fast from our college team at Michigan State makes me a mix of good music once a year… usually. He just sent me some stuff the other day and I am trying to listen and see where it takes me. Bastille has a cool sound, Arctic Monkeys came with a strong song with “Do I wanna Know” after years of cool songs.
What is on Ryan Miller’s playlist right now?
I always kind of go back to Ryan Adams, Counting Crows and Black Keys, anything Jack White does, Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon. I am trying to find some new stuff to mix in to the old faithfuls.
Do you have any favorite concert memories? Worst show you’ve ever been to?
I loved seeing Ben Harper at the old State Theater in Detroit, Our Lady Peace in Grand Rapids, MI, The Raconteurs in Detroit, Kings of Leon at the Hollywood Bowl. I can’t really say I didn’t like a show.
As mentioned before, you have collaborated with quite a few well know artists, but if you could perform or even just jam with any artist, within any genre of music, who would it be?
Stevie Ray Vaughn. His music was a big reason I picked up a guitar. Life by the Drop, Pride and Joy, his version of Little Wing.
In my opinion, you can make comparisons with hockey games to rock shows. The intensity, the high energy, the interaction with the crowd…etc. With all of that said what “barns” (arenas) in the NHL would you say puts on the best presentation and the best tunes?
I kind of zone out and the game production doesn’t stand out. Once in a while a song will play that I like and I pay attention but since it is only a short part of the song during breaks in the game it really passes by quickly. I like the energy of Montreal. Buffalo over the years had great energy. It was infectious. You could rise with the crowd. That was cool.
Switching gears, you recently signed a three year deal with the Vancouver Canucks after spending time with the St. Louis Blues. After being with Buffalo for such a long time was it a “culture shock” going to St. Louis after being in Buffalo for eleven years? Now that you are in Vancouver for the foreseeable future do you truly get used to changing cities?
It was tougher to leave than I had expected. I was very lucky as a player to stay with a team so long and enjoy a comfort that a lot of players don’t get where you feel at home and have stability with a contract and a life. In an industry where you have new teammates each year and your friends get spread out I was very lucky and owe a lot to Buffalo. I am going to try to use my St. Louis experience as the stepping stone toward a new hockey life. They treated me well but it was very short and with a condensed Olympic schedule I didn’t get to learn as much about the city and my new teammates as I had hoped. I am excited to try something new and learn about a new city and meet some new people. I am hoping to build trust with the fan base and play at a high level in Vancouver. I have a lot left I want to accomplish and I hope it can be with the Canucks.
At 34 years old and having spent about thirteen seasons in the NHL – Where would you say your game is at? Has it changed at all?
My game has changed a lot. I was a very aggressive goalie when I entered the league. I have become a little more patient in some situations. I still think I am at my best when I am little aggressive. I believe that I have always been a late bloomer in life and that my game still has a lot of upside. The mental side is always the key and I think that with the experience I have gained if I can get everything where I think I can get it then I will have the feeling about my game I have always been striving for.
Within those thirteen years you were named to the United States Olympic roster twice in your career – how does Olympic hockey compare to that in the NHL?
It is a great honor. The times I wore the jersey were special. The Olympic tournament is so fast and takes a level of focus to power through 2 weeks at a high level. The NHL is a marathon. I like that there are 2 championships that are played by the best hockey has to offer and they are done in such different ways.
Ryan Miller as a member of the United States Olympic hockey team.
Vancouver is close in proximity to Seattle and “The Emerald City” is a Mecca for many rock music fans – however Seattle’s name has been brought up time and time again in regards to the NHL potentially bringing a team there. What are your thoughts on potential expansion?
I don’t know much about the area beyond reputation. Hockey being played around the country always brings exposure and new fans. I like the idea.
Finally, what are your expectations for the Canucks? Obviously winning it all is paramount, but what do you see happening with this franchise and what are your thoughts on the direction of the Canucks at this time?
I like the direction of the organization. Management talked to me about establishing a strong positive attitude and the hirings I have seen have been have all been good hockey people. I think that the team had a down year last year for number of reasons and I expect a motivated group that is ready to prove to the hockey world they are still a strong team. I have personally seen ups and downs in a team during my time in Buffalo and within the feeling of failure is opportunity to build. It can be a huge asset if you can maintain the hunger and focus on showing how good you really can be as a group when everyone is watching.
Ryan Miller and Drew Stafford perform “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down” by The Mavericks
Ryan Miller and Derek Roy perform “Better Man” by Pearl Jam