Home > Uncategorized > A Star Is Born — Or Rather Discovered — In Vancouver

A Star Is Born — Or Rather Discovered — In Vancouver

I’m not a big fan of hockey, but I watched every game the U.S. played in these Olympics from start to finish. I found myself cheering loudly during both U.S./Canada matches. These were the two most thrilling weeks of hockey I have ever witnessed. And even after Sunday’s gut-wrenching loss, I am extremely proud of the America team, the team of mine and yours — assuming your American, of course.

But no, I am not a big hockey fan. And I still won’t be tomorrow.

Hockey enthusiasts and commentators want to believe that this tournament will be the dawn of a new age of hockey popularity in America. But we’ve heard this before. Many of the same people shared that sentiment after last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. But it’s just too optimistic to be considered realistic. You can’t put the meaning and the intensity of national pride into a Tuesday game in March between Edmonton and Nashville.

Obviously, if the league is to rise again in the U.S., it needs more household names. And hey, it wouldn’t hurt if they were American.

Well, look who just landed into the center of America’s sporting conscience. Hello, Ryan Miller.

Players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin are a good base. They’re foreigners, but their skills capture your attention. But the NHL always needs more players to market and while league followers may know him well, these Olympics were the time when Miller joined that upper crust. On the sport’s truly grandest stage, he was unquestionably the best player. Now the league just needs to sell the hell out of him in his homeland.

Two weeks ago, I knew who Ryan Miller was. That is to say I recognized his name. But I didn’t really know him. Miller has been a very good goalie on the Buffalo Sabres for a few years. He started the 2007 NHL All-Star game and is not exactly a young player like the trio listed above. He will be 30 years old in July.

He was compelling in this tournament. He became bigger than the game. And now, the NHL can sell him to its casual fans. Take myself for example. Hell, I’m probably much less than a casual fan. The last time I honestly cared about the NHL was in 1993. The Los Angeles Kings were vying for the Stanley Cup with names such as Gretzky, Robitaille, Granato, Hrudey, Kurri, Blake and McSorely.

Are any of them still playing in the league?

After that, I lost touch and I really only care about hockey these days during the later stages of the playoffs, the Olympics or when Crosby and Ovechkin face off. They are players I want to watch. Now, I want to watch Miller, too. For the NHL’s prospects in this country, it probably doesn’t hurt that he is American. Or looks like Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.”

U.S. forward Chris Drury said after Sunday’s loss: “No one knew our names. People know our names now.”

Well, kind of. I know the names of most of the players on the U.S. roster. That is to say I recognize them. But Ryan Miller gave me — and many other people — a reason to care about him going forward.

Note to the NHL: sell, sell, sell!

Ryan Miller may not be this jacked, but you can't deny the similarities from the neck up

  1. March 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Ryan Miller: notable for his emergence on to the goaltending scene following the stupendous Dominik Hasek and mediocre Martin Biron!


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