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Thanks Buffalo by Ryan Miller

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Last summer I was on my feet again at the KeyBank Center. No ice, just cement all around. My son, Bodhi, was at my side. We were looking at the big screen together – as I had done so many times as Saber – and Rick Jeanneret was upstairs talking to me.

It was surreal to see him up there, to hear him talking directly to me like that. I have known Rick since arriving in Buffalo in 2002. He is an icon and one of the great members of the Buffalo community. Hearing his voice, I was reminded of nights when he was injured and not in the lineup, and I would go to the booth from game to game and just sit behind him. I couldn’t see the ice that well, but I didn’t have to. Rick painted the picture better than my eyes ever could. He is a huge part of the fabric of the Sabers organization.

So when he said I’d be putting my number 30 shirt in the rafters… it was hard not to get emotional. I remember whenever I was playing on the net and there was a long break on TV, I used to look at the banners of all the big names – the guys who gave everything for Buffalo – Perreault, LaFontaine, Hasek. And to think that mine name would be up there, too? It fills me with so much pride and appreciation for Buffalo.

Buffalo, for me, no matter where I live, will always be home.

Ryan Miller

And I just wanted to thank everyone before I see you this week.

You know, at the end of Rick’s kind and generous speech, he said something really simple that stuck with me.

“Welcome home.”

If you play in the NHL as much as I do, you rent houses in a lot of different places. But there’s a difference between a house and a House. Buffalo, for me, no matter where I live, will always be home.

And this connection I have with the city, with the community – I won’t lie to you, it’s been hard to maintain. I had a long way to go after being traded. I went to some other places and started a life on the other side of the country. And so with the pandemic, it’s been hard to find time with my wife, Noureen, and our kids to go back East and really show them where I’ve spent a large part of my life. I forgotten Buffalo – more than I knew, actually. Coming back last summer and then going back into jersey retirement, it’s an opportunity to keep my family’s connection to the city strong. And that matters to me.

Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty

Because I remember the beginning when I was just a skinny kid from Michigan trying to fill in some big pads. I didn’t know much about the city, and I stayed at the Marriott off the Millersport Highway most of the time, bouncing between Buffalo and Rochester. I think Aleš Kotalik was there too. Just some young people trying to take it all in and not let Lindy Ruff yell at us. I think obviously a lot of people saw the tough side of him, but seriously… when you took him off the rink, he would relax and have a little fun with you. Everyone knew he was tough because he cared so much about the hockey club. He wanted to win every season. He wore what happened in ’99 on his sleeve. I felt it as a rookie and I felt it his last season in Buffalo. It was infectious. He wasn’t like any coach I’ve had before or since. he was there for win. That simple.

But I also think he understood how to get to that point. He knew that difficult seasons – like the ones we went through in my first years there – were necessary. He knew that young players had to learn win.

And to learn to win, man… you have to lose a little.

I remember my first NHL game. I was called up in November 2002 during a 0-9-2 slide. Things weren’t good to say the least. We were playing the Devils in New Jersey—one of the best teams in the league and eventual Cup champions that year. And they had Martin Brodeur in net that night – one of my favorite players growing up. I remember following his career as a kid and thinking: Wow, I remember him as a teenager, and now he’s in the NHL?

To me, he made an NHL career seem possible in a way. So lining up against him in my first game is something I’ll never forget.

I wish I could forget about the third period of that game. I make.

We were leading 2-0 going into the third, and I remember thinking: Oh my God, I have a shutout against Martin Brodeur! Against the demons! In the NHL!

And then the next thing I remember is losing in overtime.

0-10-2.

I learned to be a little more present after that.

As difficult as some of these seasons have been, we were building something.

The team and the city are one.

Ryan Miller

We had some good young players including Danny Brière, Chris Drury, Brian Campbell, Aleš – guys who would be a huge part of our success coming out of lockdown. Lindy saw it and made the city of Buffalo see it too. People wanted our core players to succeed and supported us through the tough times. I remember this. I think we all wanted to win for the community.

That’s how I think of those runs to the conference finals in ’06 and ’07.

The rink was packed every night during those playoffs and I just… I get goosebumps just thinking about it now. I still remember the noise inside the building, the faces of the fans when we scored a great goal – I will cherish those memories forever. I wish we’d crossed the line one of those years and won a Cup, but I think every guy in the room gave everything they had. And I know Buffalo felt that. Because the fans also gave everything. The only support in town – when you saw someone at the grocery store and they said how much the Sabers meant to them and their kids… that was special. And it felt like… I want to describe it correctly because there’s It is something different about Buffalo. I’ve been lucky enough to play in some great hockey cities with passionate fans. But a lot of big markets pay attention to you, you know? Coverage and talk shows and all that. But they don’t give you connection. Some markets seem far away. But in Buffalo – I felt like we were all on the ice together, we were all in the stands together. we are all in it together.

And I think the other players and I feel that because that’s what the organization, the Pegula family, wants. The team and the city are one.

Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty

I felt that all the time as Saber. After the 2010 Olympics, when I was going through a tough time, I had a lot of support from everyone in Buffalo. There were so many kind messages from fans in and around the rink and although it took a while – I feel very proud of this tournament and winning a silver medal. And the city will always be part of those memories.

I can’t lie here, I need to save some stories for my speech, otherwise I’m going to spend 20 minutes crying in front of you. But before I get there, I just wanted to say: Thank you, Buffalo.

Can’t wait to see you again.

—Ryan

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