Mike Miller likes to talk.
Correction, he loves to talk.
For Miller, the Toledo native and longtime voice of the New Jersey Devils, talking seems almost as vital as breathing.
He's the long-winded type. And quite proud of it. Ask anyone who has been involved in a conversation with him and they'll tell you rarely has there been a time when Miller was short for words.
However, that wasn't the situation recently when he found himself staring at the devastation known as Ground Zero in New York City, and then a few days later looking at a decimated Pentagon building in the Washington, D.C. area.
Miller, who makes a comfortable living expressing himself as a National Hockey League radio play-by-play announcer, said there really aren't words to adequately describe what he has seen up close as a result of the terrorist attacks that took place on Sept. 11.
“I did have a chance to go down to Ground Zero,” said Miller, who has an apartment six miles from midtown Manhattan. “The one thing that stood out was the stench in the air around Ground Zero. The smell really fills your nostrils very quickly.
“For someone who talks a lot and talks for a living, I was speechless for a long time. It's so sad to see something like that.”
The same speechless feeling overcame him while on a Devils road trip to Washington D.C. to play the Capitals. The morning after arriving in the D.C. area around midnight, Miller woke the next morning and opened the curtains to his hotel room window for some sunshine only to find himself looking directly at the seriously damaged Pentagon building.
Seeing both of those sites up close has been “an eye-opener” for Miller. The reality that thousands of lives were lost from planes crashing into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and the Pentagon has become more vivid.
“It's humbling,” Miller said.
Miller said Sept. 11 has created a special bond among the people in the New York/New Jersey area.
“In New York, everybody has a (United States) flag up,” Miller said.
Miller, 49, has been a professional hockey radio play-by-play announcer for the last 22 years, including the last nine with the Devils.
He spends most of the NHL regular season commuting back and forth between Toledo and the New York/New Jersey area. Somehow, he's gotten it down to a science where he's typically able to spend a few days during a week with his family and the rest of the week in New Jersey or on the road with the Devils.
Since Sept. 11, though, those trips running in and out of airports have been quite different from the past.
Crowded airports are hard to find. The hustle and bustle of travelers scurrying about trying to get from one end of an airport to another practically has disappeared.
Miller, who hosts a hockey show Thursday nights on Toledo's all-sports radio station, The Ticket (1470 AM), said he has felt safe flying. The terrorist incidents haven't slowed him down from his longtime routine of bouncing in and out of airports.
But he's noticed the effect it has had on airports across the country.
“I've been on flights where it's been as few as 25 people on them,” Miller said. “But I give those people flying a lot of credit. I see a real resolve and a real patience among the passengers.
“People don't sweat the small stuff.”
It was only last hockey season when Miller was dealing with his own personal crisis. He was diagnosed with throat cancer and had to undergo several months of chemotherapy treatments. He lost his voice temporarily, as a result of the radiation treatments, and had to stop working for a period of time. He eventually regained his voice and returned to the broadcasting booth by the start of last year's NHL playoffs.
Although Miller was concerned about his own well-being around this time a year ago, he said his personal ordeal doesn't come close to comparing to what he has seen at Ground Zero and at the Pentagon.
“There are a lot of people affected by what took place on Sept. 11,” Miller said. “This is an entirely different type of battle.”
Donald Emmons is The Blade's sports media columnist. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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