By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88
“He is one of the toughest competitors in Hockey East, and his leadership qualities are exceptional. Kevan has the team very focused going into the season.”Coach Kevin Sneddon of the Vermont Catamounts
Not much has changed from his college days playing on the men’s hockey team at the University of Vermont to playing professionally in the NHL. Miller has always exemplified grittiness and strength on the ice as well as leadership over the years especially when it came to helping the younger players. Despite being the “older guy” on the team after the departure of longtime Captain Zdeno Chara, he continued to do all that he could for the team. They leaned on him for toughness as the team’s defensive make-up changed. What was frustrating for Miller and fans was the constant setbacks stemming from his knee surgeries. What was even tougher to watch was that despite the tremendous amount of rehab he pushed himself through, his ice time was still limited.
The rugged 33-year-old defenseman continued to push and traded some nasty punches as the Bruins were headed into a playoff push. As fellow defenseman Brandon Carlo simply stated:
“I always talk about [Miller] in the aspect of just the willingness to never give up, and he never gave up,”
That perseverance is part of Miller’s DNA and fans have seen this throughout his career in Boston. What we don’t always get to see though is the man beyond the ice.
In an interview with SV Elite Magazine Miller knew early on what he needed and wanted to do:
“Every kid who grows up watching hockey dreams about this. You hang stuff on your wall and talk about going pro. It was a big step to leave home and move across the country at 16, but I knew, at this point, I was going to give this a shot – I was gonna make a run for it.”
Life in New England started when the 16-year-old Santa Clarita, CA native attended the Berkshire School in Sheffield, MA where he played for the ice hockey team. He would, later on, attend the University of Vermont where he played for the Catamounts. There he developed a reputation of being a dependable defenseman. During his years there he was the 2007-08 UVM George Buzzell Rookie of the Year, served as Co-Captain in 2009-10, and Captain in 2010-11.
Miller signed a two-year entry-level contract with Boston and played for the Providence Bruins. He worked hard while playing for AHL prior to making his NHL debut on November 21, 2013, against the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden. His first NHL goal came on December 8th, 2013 in Toronto. The tough blueliner continued to don the spoked B while solidifying his spot on the roster. His willingness to stand up for his team was never questioned as seen by his 21 career fights.
It’s that dedication to helping those around him that has spilled over into his off-ice presence. Back in 2017, one of Miller’s closest friends Tom Tinlin, former Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highways Administrator suffered a brain aneurysm. This incident led the defenseman to learn more about the condition:
“Tom Tinlin, a close friend of mine, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm this past summer. When I heard the news, I’ll be honest I didn’t quite know what that meant. The only information I had was that it was life-threatening and he was in the hospital being treated. After a few tense days, I received word that he pulled through and it was ok for me to go visit.
I did some research once I got home and realized just how fortunate Tom was to still be with us. I can’t imagine what he and his family, along with so many others, have gone through because of this disease. Brain aneurysms and their causes are relatively unfamiliar to many people. I am honored to be joining the Brain Aneurysm Foundation to help bring awareness to this disease.”
Miller was named the official spokesperson of the foundation to help bring awareness about the condition. Established in 1994, the BAF is comprised of health officials and specialists on brain aneurysms. For more info, you may visit their page.
Another one of his endeavors is the unwavering support for the men and women in uniform while leading the initiative during the Bruins Military Appreciation nights. He was part of the team that included alums Hal Gill and Andrew Raycroft, who visited Fort Bragg in North Carolina back in 2016. Every season the Bruins also help out many local military members, veterans, and their families. In 2017 Miller, along with Noel Acciari, David Backes, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug, Tim Schaller, and Frank Vatrano each purchased $2,500 worth of tickets for local military members. The Boston Bruins Foundation also partnered with Red River and raised $42,000 for Operation Hat Trick which provides financial assistance to support the recovery of wounded service members and veterans.
Miller’s continued commitment to the sport as well as his charitable endeavors has not gone unnoticed as he was recently nominated for the 2021 Bill Masterton Trophy. This award is voted by the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association (PHWA) and is given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” Professional Hockey Writers Association Boston Chapter Chair Joe Haggerty put it best:
“It takes equal parts dedication and perseverance for a defenseman like Kevan Miller to push his way into the NHL as an undrafted college player and he’s been a strong, courageous and tough customer on the ice over the last eight years that perfectly embodies the Bruins way. Miller has faced career-threatening knee injuries over the last three seasons, but never backed down and never stopped working for a return. None of it was easy, but Miller’s resilient response to adversity is exactly what a Bill Masterton Trophy candidate should be all about.”
CLOSE TO HOME
Like most hockey players there’s no flashiness when it comes to his personal life. From time to time, Miller would offer a glimpse of family life and it’s one of a devout family man who credits God while going through the tough injuries. He told the Boston Herald:
“It’s something that I lean on a lot and just knowing it’s kind of out of my hands at this point. I’m going to do what I can to get back, work hard, do the right things rehab-wise. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. I found some solace in that, that if it’s meant for me to get back playing hockey, then that’s God’s plan. If it’s not, it’s not. That helped me.”
To know exactly what he meant to the team and in the locker room, Captain Patrice Bergeron explained:
“I’m so proud of everything he’s accomplished in his career. He worked so hard in his career and worked so hard to come back (from the knee injury), he’s the ultimate warrior and a great teammate. I’m proud to have been his teammate. We’ll remain friends, of course, but I just wanted to wish him luck in the future and to give all my best to his family, because I know this has been a tough decision for all of them.”
Brandon Carlo credits Miller in being his mentor on and off the ice:
“Probably the guy that I’ve grown closest with over the last couple years. He’s been a huge mentor of mine. We’ve had many conversations. Coming into the league and being a right-handed defenseman, playing in similar roles…he did such a good job handling me and helping me along the way.”
So after playing 352 games for the Boston Bruins and becoming a huge part of the core leadership group, the hard-nosed defenseman can leave the city and sport that he has loved his entire life, with his head held high. Time to enjoy some much-needed family time.
“Forever a Bruin”