| Training camp is still three weeks away, but it can’t get here soon enough for Aaron Miller. The veteran defenseman who signed with the Canucks as an unrestricted free agent in July will be one of the new faces when the Canucks assemble in Victoria in mid-September.
While he's a far cry from a certified west-coaster just yet, Miller has spent a few weeks in Vancouver this summer and says it’s already starting to feel like home.
“I just love the city. I’ve been walking around for the past week and it’s really been a lot of fun. I’ve been here countless times over my career and never seen the sun, but this week was pretty nice,” Miller told canucks.com after a morning on-ice session and workout with a handful of his new teammates at Burnaby’s 8-Rinks. “I came in about three weeks ago with my wife to try to find a place. It didn’t work out so well, so I came back in about a week ago and we got a place and I’ve been skating with the guys this week.”
Miller, a Buffalo native who now spends his summers in Vermont, is heading to Los Angeles for a few days to tidy up some loose ends after spending the past six seasons playing for the Kings. He’ll then return to Vancouver next week with his wife and three young children to begin the next phase of his National Hockey League career.
Although he’s faced the Canucks for years as a member of the Kings and prior to that with the Colorado Avalanche, the 36-year-old had only one direct connection to his new team – former L.A. teammate Jeff Cowan. That’s why the informal late summer skates with the likes of Trevor Linden, Brendan Morrison, Mattias Ohlund, Willie Mitchell, Matt Cooke and another Canuck newcomer Byron Ritchie have helped Miller make the transition.
“I know these guys from playing against them, but it’s really good for me to come up here early. I’ve kind of got a lay of the land and seen the facilities, met all the trainers and coaches,” he says. “These guys work hard here. Boy, I came in last week and these guys really train hard, they hit the bikes hard, but it’s good. You get a lot of these young kids and they work you. But I’m really enjoying myself and I’m really looking forward to a great season here in Vancouver.”
And the Canucks are looking forward to the things Aaron Miller will add to the mix. He’s a big body and a veteran presence that should help with the dirty work of keeping the area in front of Roberto Luongo clear so the Canuck netminder can do his job. And with Miller, the Canucks shore up their defensive depth and in the minds of many, they now have one of the strongest groups of six blueliners in the league.
THE LITTLE THINGS
One thing Miller won’t be counted on to add to the mix is offence. His last goal came 160 regular season games ago back on November 27, 2003 and he’s never scored more than five goals in a season. But then again, maybe a switch in surroundings will bring about a change in his offensive fortunes.
“Change is good. I’ve only played for two organizations my entire career and when I first got to L.A. it did my career really well to get into a new environment and kind of get those butterflies again and have to meet all the new guys,” he says of finding a new hockey home. “There’s a lot of little things (to worry about). It’s finding a place. I’m American, so it’s things like getting your cars up here and over here. It’s getting proper documentation and for the kids, finding schools and things like that. It’s a process. Thank god I have my wife (Kristy), she’s a huge help and I can pretty much concentrate playing hockey and meeting the guys and she’s kind of taken care of everything else.”
In addition to living in a new city, Miller and his family are taking a new approach to life away from the rink this coming season. For the first time in his playing career, he’s going to try urban dwelling in effort take in all that Vancouver has to offer.
“That’s going to be a little different. We found a small townhouse in Yaletown, so with three kids, the space is going to be an adjustment and that’ll take some getting used to,” he says. “But we’re looking forward to it and it should be good.”
And so should his new hockey team which was, ultimately, why Miller thought the Canucks would be a good fit for him at this stage of his career. Having gone five springs now without a taste of playoff hockey, Miller, who represented the U.S. at the 2002 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup, wanted to find a team that had a shot at the Stanley Cup. He thinks he’s found that in Vancouver and that, more than anything else, is why he’s so excited about the coming season.
“I’m looking forward to this training camp more so than I have in a lot of years,” he says.
Aaron Miller can start counting down the days. Training camp starts in less than three weeks.
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
One More Piece
Canucks Sign Miller
Aaron Miller has averaged 20:23 minutes per game over the span of his 11-year NHL career.
"We think we have one of the strongest defensive corps possible… and having any chance of being competitive in this league is going to take good goaltending and good defense, and that’s what we’ve looked to shore up.” - Dave Nonis on acquiring Miller
“Is big, strong and capable of effectively clearing the front of his own end. Avoids making big mistakes in the defensive zone and constantly displays the attitude of a winner.” – Scouting Report on Miller
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