Kalman: SoCal Roots No Barrier For Miller’s NHL Prowess
WILMINGTON (CBS) — Thirty one pull-ups is an impressive total for a grown man.
It becomes even more mind-blowing when a normal-sized athlete can hoist himself above a pole that many times and match the total of Bruins resident Godzilla Zdeno Chara during fitness testing at training camp.
However, after he tied the Boston captain for the most displays of brute strength, Kevan Miller didn’t let that become the thing he’d be known for the rest of his life. Twenty-six years old and in search of his first NHL experience, the stay-at-home defenseman went back to the Providence (AHL) farm club to start the season and worked his rear off to get an opportunity to achieve his NHL dream.
Well now, arms that can move mountains aren’t the only thing Miller and Chara have in common. They also both have NHL contracts that run beyond this season, even if financially they’re as far apart as Appalachia and the Back Bay.
Miller signed a two-year, one-way extension Tuesday that kicks in next season. In 16 games with the Bruins since injuries took their toll on the defense corps and opened up some opportunities, Miller has one goal and one assist. More importantly, he’s been a physical force and a value right-handed shot at full strength and on the penalty kill.
Miller, however, didn’t throw a ticker-tape parade upon inking his first NHL multi-year deal.
“To be honest with you, since November … I really haven’t had time to reflect,” said Miller, who was undrafted out of the University of Vermont and joined the Bruins’ organization as a free agent at the end of the 2010-11 season. “It’s the middle of the season. I really haven’t had [time]. Maybe in the summer I’ll reflect a little bit. But it’s definitely a dream come true.”
That childhood dream might’ve been different than that of other kids Miller’s age where he grew up. From Southern California, Miller was part of a small wave of kids taking to hockey in the land of football and hoops, mostly influenced by the presence of three NHL teams in the state and the rise of state-of-the-art rinks throughout the non-traditional hockey market.
Now Miller is part of a new breed of NHL player, along with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Beau Bennett and Anaheim Ducks prospect Emerson Etem, among others – the type that was able to go from hockey practice to the beach on a regular basis growing up.
That time on the beach might’ve helped Miller’s development to where he is now.
“No,” Bruins coach Claude Julien responded when asked if he could tell Miller was from the Golden State. “Maybe if you look at him without his shirt on, you’d think he worked out on the beach. But other than that you can’t tell.”
Miller left California for prep school in New England and then applied his trade at the University of Vermont for four seasons. His family’s still based in California, though, and he takes pride in representing the land once ruled by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Yeah, a little bit for sure. It’s nice to be one of the guys that came out of California,” Miller said. “There’s actually been more and more lately, especially in college now. And those guys are coming up through the ranks. So I think you’ll see more of that as time goes on.”
Despite his roots in the lower part of the state, Miller had an affinity for the San Jose Sharks. He says he had it written on the wall that his goal was to make it to the NHL. The one-way contract might as well be a written affirmation of that goal.
But what Sharks player’s poster was stuck next to his to-do list?
“I’m going to hold onto that one. He’s still playing. I’m not telling you that one,” Miller said.
If he keeps up at his current pace, Miller’s poster might wind up on the wall of some aspiring player from California or other Sun Belt area. And down the road, that kid can also sign a monumental NHL contract and duck a question about who his idol was as a kid.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.