Ryan Miller’s world came to a halt one day in March, as it did for almost everyone. It wasn’t just hockey that was interrupted because of the coronavirus pandemic that swept the world. It was life in general that was placed in floating animation.
It wasn’t long before Miller and his Ducks teammates wondered what they could do to help. They started donating meals to doctors, nurses, and other essential health workers at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, following the charity leadership of Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli.
Among other things, the Samuelis promised to pay part-time employees until June 30.
As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, Miller realized he could do more. He had old goalkeeper equipment that he could auction for charity in Orange County, including the Second Harvest Food Bank, and in Buffalo, New York, where he got his NHL start.
The Ducks had already partnered with Second Harvest, set up a food distribution site in the Honda Center parking lot, and handed over their shuttered practice area in Irvine’s Great Park to use as food storage.
“We have a good group in Anaheim,” said Miller. “The Samuelis really came forward and the boys turned and did something nice. Then it said, “Okay, we did something as a group. What can I do differently? Well, I have a lot of stuff in old bags in the attic and in storage. ”
Miller, 39, founded the Steadfast Foundation in 2006 while playing with the Buffalo Sabers. It was through his charity that he set up his last fundraiser, an online auction featuring some of his pads, catching gloves, skates and sticks, plus a few donated items from teammates and rivals.
“I contacted guys I played with,” he said. “There are good things there.”
The auction runs until June 1, or maybe later if bids keep coming in.
To view Miller’s equipment and make an offer: www.thesteadfastfoundation.org/collections/auction-items
Setting up the auction was a way of giving back to two of the communities he has called home since joining the NHL with the Sabers in 2002-03, after a great career with Michigan State. It also earned him a project to keep him busy during these days of uncertainty.
Like almost everyone who has been safer at home in California, Miller has watched and embraced TV with his family. He has also tried to practice yoga as a way to stay active in anticipation of what comes next.
The Ducks’ last game was March 11, a loss to the St. Louis Blues at Honda Center. The NHL interrupted the game the next morning, and although there is a proposal to resume play with only 24 of the league’s 31 teams, it is possible that Miller had played his last game.
After all, the Ducks were not among the top 24 teams in the rankings when the game was discontinued, so their 2019-20 season would be over. Miller has no contract for the 2020-21 period and although he said he would like to play, he couldn’t claim to know what the future was for him.
“If that’s my last season, it would be pretty disappointing,” he said of the possibility of such a shocking end to his career. “These are uncertain times and I don’t know what that means to me. It would be hard to accept if it’s my last chance.”
Miller was a skilled backup and an excellent mentor for starting goalkeeper John Gibson for 71 games over three seasons with the Ducks, his fourth team in the NHL. In total, he has won 387 games, most of them by an American-born goalkeeper in league history.
In addition, Miller is two more wins away from tying Dominik Hasek, the man who preceded him in Buffalo and set the standard for Sabers goalkeepers while playing 491 games. Miller played 540 games with Buffalo and forged a strong bond with the hard-scrabble city and his fans.
Miller also played with the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks before signing with the Ducks as a free agent on July 1, 2017. As with his other stops, he endeared himself to Ducks fans with acts like swapping out pucks for Girl Scout cookies during a pre-heat up this season.
“I don’t want to close anything,” Miller said of the opportunity to re-sign with the Ducks and continue his career in the Hall of Fame caliber for an 18th season in the NHL. “But I don’t want to make a decision if nobody knows what’s going on.”
Like everything else, it is a decision suspended due to the coronavirus.