Veteran radio broadcaster Mike Miller recently called his 2,000th professional hockey game. The Temperance resident is currently the broadcaster for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. Miller, 58, grew up in West Toledo and started his broadcasting career in 1980-81 calling Toledo Goaldiggers games. That career has lasted more than 30 years. In 1993, Miller moved up to the NHL and was the radio voice of the New Jersey Devils for nine years. Miller was diagnosed with vocal-cord cancer in 2001, and after recovering, he became the general manager of the Toledo Storm from 2002-06. Miller was on the mic to call the Spitfires’ back-to-back Memorial Cup titles the last two seasons. Miller also hosts a weekly radio show on 1470 AM called “Face-Off the Hockey Show.” He also works in the business development department at Tam-O-Shanter. Miller and his wife, Susan, have two grown daughters, Lindsay and Kayla.
What did it mean when you called your 2,000th game?
It made me reflect on how fortunate I’ve been to do something that I enjoy for over 30 years. The relationships with people I’ve met through hockey over the years have been wonderful. I can’t walk into an arena without knowing somebody, from the Zamboni driver to the team president. I’ve also been lucky to call the majority of those games on truly great radio stations that include WABC in New York and now at CKLW in Windsor.
Why do you think you gravitated to hockey?
Without a doubt it was Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night on Channel 9. Rabbit ears and all! The great voices of the game included Foster Hewitt and Danny Gallivan. In Detroit we had Bruce Martyn and Budd Lynch. I just finished Lynch’s book. He’s 93 and still does the PA at the Joe.
What are your early sports memories?
Both of my parents were huge sports fans. They owned a tavern in Toledo, and the only thing my Dad would allow on television was sports. No afternoon soap operas. I grew up in a neighborhood where we played something every day. I played baseball at Whitmer and in the Toledo Federation for years. Sports have always been a huge part of my life.
What made the Goaldiggers era so memorable to so many people?
The style of play of the Goaldiggers was tough and entertaining. We had a lot of characters pass through this town that became household names. I’m still amazed about the number of people that I’ve worked with that are still in the game. Scott Howson is the GM in Columbus, Lorne Molleken coached the Blackhawks. Dirk Graham, Steve Martinson, Claude Noel are coaching or scouting professionally, and we can’t forget Brian Kinsella, who just coached St. Francis to a state championship. That reminds me of Mike Greeder, who coached St. Francis, and Paul Tantardini, who along with Mike left us too soon.
What is the talent level and interest level like in the OHL?
We have won back-to-back national championships. Six of our players and our coach from last year’s team are in the NHL this year. Windsor has three first-round NHL picks in their lineup this year. As far as interest, we average 6,000 plus per night. Our new building is very similar to the Huntington Center — two great venues.
What have been the main highlights of your broadcasting career?
I remember my first game in October, 1980. Toledo played at Flint that night. Jim Welch was my color partner. My first game in the NHL, October of 1993, was obviously a thrill. Broadcasting the two Stanley Cups in 1995 and 2000 were tremendous, and 1995 was odd because I grew up a Red Wings fan and we swept them 4-0. These two Memorial Cups have been something. It’s like the BCS football championships in the states. It’s the best young talent in the world, and the majority will play professionally.
You’ve said calling a baseball game is much more difficult than calling a hockey game. Why?
I love baseball, but the pace is so much different from hockey. Calling a hockey game is more about relaying the info to the listener. There is a lot of down time in baseball. I’m sure the prep work is more extensive. In hockey what you “see” is what you get. For example, the OHL has a 15 second face-off rule. The action is almost nonstop. My preparation starts in the morning reading as much as I can. It’s great today with the Internet as opposed to years ago when I broke in.
Now looking back, what did you learn from being the Storm’s GM?
I learned to trust your abilities and instincts in any endeavor. It was a great four years. We won a ton of hockey games and a Brabham Cup, going from 26th to 1st. We were able to get the season ticket base to 1,500 in that old building, and more important I think I was able to help people along the way. They’re still in the game doing well.
What do you miss most about the Sports Arena?
What a place! I run into people and players familiar with the old building, the stories are endless. We all miss her, but it was time. It’s hard to create an atmosphere like that today. The fans were right on top of you, and they sure let you know how you were playing. Mark Turner is our video coach in Windsor. He played in Toledo when I was there. He played 16 years pro and still says it was one of his favorite places.
What is something nobody knows about you?
I’m a lot more sentimental and reflective than I used to be or let on to be. I’m trying to smell the roses a little more. I’ve lost some close friends the past few years, and that puts things into perspective. I admire my wife’s demeanor. First of all she has put up with me for 26 years, and secondly her calm nature offsets my fly by the seat of my pants personality. It’s been a good mix. I still get the question. ‘When are you going on the road?’ She’s a first round draft choice.
— Mark Monroe