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Thank You, Buffalo by Ryan Miller

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Last summer, I was standing at a tuck again at KeyBank Center. No snow, just cement everywhere. My son, Buddy, was next to me. We were looking at the big screen together – like I have done so many times as Saber – and Rick Jennert was there talking to me.

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It was surreal to see him there, to hear him speak directly to me like that. I have known Rick since I first came to Buffalo in 2002. He is an icon and one of the great members of the Buffalo community. When I heard his voice, I remembered the nights I got injured and I wasn’t in the lineup, and I’d walk up to the play-by-play booth and sit behind him. I couldn’t see the ice that well, but I didn’t need to. Rick drew the best picture ever. It’s a big part of the fabric of the Sabers’ organization.

So when he said I would put my No. 30 jersey to the rafters… it was hard not to be emotional. I remember when I was playing in the net and there was a long respite from the TV, I was looking at the banners of all the greats – the guys who gave everything for Buffalo – Perrault, Lafontaine, Hasek. And think about it for me Will the name be there too? It fills me with so much pride and appreciation for Buffalo.

Buffalo, to me, no matter where I live, will always be one of my homes.

Ryan Miller

And I just wanted to say thank you all before I see you this week.

You know, at the end of Rick’s kind and generous speech, he said something really simple that stuck with me.

“welcome home.”

If you’ve been playing in the NHL for as long as I have, you’ve been renting homes in many different places. But there is a difference between home and Homepage. Buffalo, to me, no matter where I live, will always be one of my homes.

And that connection between me and the city and the community — I’m not going to lie to you, it was hard to maintain. I had a long way to go after I got traded. I went to a few other places and started my life on the other side of the country. And then with the pandemic, it was hard for me to find time with my wife, Noreen, and our kids to go back east and really show them where I’d spent a good chunk of my life. I miss Buffalo – more than I knew, really. Back last summer, and then again for jersey retirement, it’s a chance to keep my family’s connection to the city strong. This concerns me

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Bill Weppert/NHLI via Getty

Because I remember the beginning, when I was just a skinny kid from Michigan trying to fill in some big pads. I didn’t know much about the city, and was staying at the Marriott off Millersport Highway most of the time, commuting between Buffalo and Rochester. I think Ales Kotalik was there too. Just a couple of guys trying to soak it all up and not make Lindy Rafe yell at us. I think, obviously, a lot of people saw his tough side, but really… when you took him off the rink, he would have been so relaxed and so much fun with you. Everyone knew he was tough because he cared so much about the hockey club. He wanted to win every season. He wore what happened in ’99 on his sleeve. I felt him as a rookie and I felt him in his final season in Buffalo. It was contagious. He was unlike any coach I’ve had before or since. was there to Win. Easy like that.

But I also think he understood how to get to that point. He knew that tough seasons – like the ones we had in my first years there – were necessary. He knew that young players had to learn to win.

And to learn to win, man… you have to lose some.

I remember my first NHL game. I was called up in November of 2002, during a 0-9-2 slide. Things weren’t great, to say the least. We were playing the New Jersey Devils – one of the best teams in the league and eventual cup champions that year. And they had Martin Brodeur in the net that night – one of my favorite players growing up. I remember following his career as a kid and thinking, Wow, I remember him as a teenager, and now he’s in the NHL?

To me, making an NHL career seem possible in a way. So to stand against him in my first match is something I will never forget.

I wish I could forget the third period of that match. I do.

We went up 2-0 heading into third, and I remember thinking, Oh my God, you’ve got closure against Martin Brodeur! Against demons! in the NHL!

Then the next thing I remember is losing in overtime.

0-10-2.

I learned to stay present a little more after that.

Despite the difficulty of some of those seasons, we were building something.

The team and the city are one.

Ryan Miller

We had some good young players, including Danny Breyer, Chris Drury, Brian Campbell and Alish – guys who will be a big part of our success post-lockdown. Lindy saw it, and he made the city of Buffalo see it, too. People wanted our key players to succeed and supported us through difficult times. I remember that. I think we all wanted to win for the community.

That’s what I think going back from those runs to the Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007.

The rink was packed every night during those qualifiers and I just… I get goosebumps thinking about going back to it now. I still remember the noise inside the building, the faces of the fans when we scored a big goal – I will cherish those memories forever. I wish we had crossed the line one of those years and won a trophy, but I think everyone in the room gave it their all. And I know Buffalo felt that way. Because the fans gave it all too. SUPPORT ONLY IN TOWN – When you see someone at the grocery store and they tell you how much the Sabers mean to them and their kids…that was special. And I just felt like… I want to properly describe this because it’s there he Something different from Buffalo. I’ve been fortunate enough to play in some great hockey cities with passionate fanbases. But a lot of the big markets give you attention, you know? Coverage, talk shows and all that. But they don’t give you Connection. Some markets seem far away. But in Buffalo – it felt like we were all on the ice together, we were all in the stands together. We’re all in it together.

And I think the other players and I felt that way because that’s what the organization and the Pegula family want. The team and the city are one.

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Bill Weppert/NHLI via Getty

I felt that all my time as a Saber. After the 2010 Olympics, when I was going through hard times, there was a lot of support from everyone in Buffalo. There were so many kind messages from the fans in and around the rink, and even though it took me a while – I feel really proud of this tournament and winning the silver. And the city will always be a part of those memories.

I can’t lie here, I need to memorize some stories for my speech, otherwise I’m going to spend 20 minutes crying in front of you guys. But before I head out, I just wanted to say, Thank you, Buffalo.

I can’t wait to see you again.

—Ryan

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