Dominik Hasek assists Sabres in honoring goalie Ryan Miller

Dominik Hasek assists Sabres in honoring goalie Ryan Miller

BUFFALO, NY — Ryan Miller grew up idolizing goaltender Dominik Hasek, and when he signed with the Buffalo Sabers in 2002, he fantasized that one day his name and number would hang from the rafters of the arena. .

Not only did Miller’s dream come true on Thursday night, he was impressed by Hasek’s video attendance from his home in the Czech Republic to welcome him to the exclusive Sabres club.

“Ryan, I’m honored to be part of your night. As goalkeepers we know what the position requires, all eyes are on you,” Hasek said at a pre-match ceremony. Buffalo against the New York Islanders. “I’m proud of the history we both wrote here in this city, in front of these fans.”

By becoming Buffalo’s starting goaltender in 2005, four years after Hasek was traded to Detroit, Miller established himself as one of the franchise’s best in more than 10 seasons with the team.

“It was just amazing that he would say nice words about me because that’s exactly how I would watch his hockey,” said Miller, who wore Hasek’s number 39 throughout his career. junior and college career at Michigan State before moving to number 30 upon his arrival. the Sabers as a fifth-round pick in 1999.

“I wanted to have my own relationship with the fans. I wanted to have my own identity,” Miller, 42, said of wanting to part ways with Hasek. “It’s pretty cool that this different path led us to the same place.”

Former Buffalo Sabers goaltender Ryan Miller and his family watch as a banner with his name and number is raised to the rafters. AP Photo/Josue Bessex

Miller broke some of Hasek’s records and still ranks first on the franchise list with 284 wins, 540 games played and a 41-win mark in a single season. A native of East Lansing, Michigan, Miller’s 391 wins – two more than Hasek – across four teams in 18 seasons, ranks first among American-born goaltenders and 14th overall .

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

Miller is best known for his time in Buffalo. In 2006 and 2007, he led the Sabers to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances, which Buffalo lost both times.

And then came his Vezina Trophy-winning season in 2009-2010, which coincided with Miller supporting the United States for a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, where he was named the most valuable player of the tournament.

For all his stops in the league, and now based in Southern California, Miller remains passionate about Buffalo.

“I loved my time here, and I’m glad it was a milestone and the fans enjoyed it,” said Miller, who remains a part-time NHL rules consultant. goalkeepers. “But it’s also a time to reconnect. I love Buffalo, and I want to be more present and now I can be there.”

Many former teammates, coaches and family members joined Miller for the on-ice ceremony. Also in attendance was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

“He was the backbone of this team,” former Sabers forward Thomas Vanek said of Miller. “For me, as a player in 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-border rival, in a comment that drew one of the loudest applause of the ceremony.

Miller said, “I wanted the whole town to wake up in a good mood because we beat the Maple Leafs the night before.”

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