Hasek assists Sabres in honoring goalie Ryan Miller

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Ryan Miller grew up idolizing goalie Dominik Hasek, and he impressed with the Buffalo Sabers in 2002, one day having his name and number hang from the rafters.

Not only did Miller’s dream come true on Thursday night, when Hasek showed up from his home in the Czech Republic to welcome him to an exclusive club with the Sabres.

“Ryan, I’m honored to be a part of your night. For goalies, we know what a demanding position, all eyes are on you,” Hasek said in a ceremony held before Buffalo’s game against the New York Islanders. “I’m already proud of the history we’ve made here in this city, in front of these fans.”

When Buffalo took over the goaltending in 2005, four years after Hasek was traded to Detroit, Miller established himself as one of the franchise’s most accomplished players for more than ten seasons with the team.

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“It was just amazing for him to have kind words about me because that’s exactly how I watch hockey,” said Miller, who has Hasek’s No. He wore 39 throughout his junior and college careers at Michigan State before switching to No. 30 by combining Sabers as a fifth round pick in 1999.

“I wanted to have my relationship with the fans. I wanted to have my own identity, said the 42-year-old Miller of wanting to separate from Hasek. “It’s pretty cool that a different path led us to the same place.”

Miller broke some of Hasek’s records, and is still first on the franchise list with 284 wins, 540 games played, and a single season record of 41 victories. From East Lansing, Michigan, Miller has 391 wins, two more than Hasek – over four games split over 18 seasons, first among first-born US goalies, and 14th overall.

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He retired from the NHL two years after four seasons with Anaheim. He also played with St. Louis and Vancouver.

Miller is best remembered for his time in Buffalo. In 2006 and ’07, he led the Sabers to consecutive Eastern Conference final appearances, losing to Buffalo both times.

And then came his Vezina Trophy winning season in 2009-10, which helped Miller lead the United States to a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, where he was named tournament MVP.

For all that surrounds his league, and now making his home in Southern California, Miller remains fond of Buffalo.

“I loved my time here, and I’m glad it was an impactful season, and that the fans enjoyed it at the time,” said Miller, who remains a part-time NHL consultant on goalie rules. But it’s also time to reconnect. I love Buffalo, and I want to be around more and be around now.

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Joining Miller for the ceremony on the ice were several of his former teammates, coaches and family members. Also in attendance was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

“He was the backbone of this team,” former Sabers Thomas Vanek said of Miller. “For me as a player going into every game I knew we had a chance to win because we had Ryan Miller.”

Miller couldn’t resist poking fun at the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Sabres’ cross-rivals, in a comment he received at one of the major ceremonies.

Miller said: “I wanted to wake up the whole city in good spirits because we hit the Maple Leafs the night before.”


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