Photo: bridgetds via photopin cc
It was arguably one of the biggest signings in the history of Scottish ice hockey when the Braehead Clan announced the signing of Drew Miller from the Detroit Red Wings in October 2012.
The Elite League had not seen a player of Miller’s quality since Theo Fleury’s joined the Belfast Giants in 2005 and when the 29-year-old reached our shores, few could have predicted just how big an impact the American forward would have on our sport.
As the tenth member of his family to play ice hockey and the fifth to make it to the NHL, Miller’s arrival at the Scottish outfit was met with a wave of delight among the Clan fans in a move that happened somewhat by chance as Braehead were the first team to make the American an offer.
Miller, who by his own admission did not know much about the Clan or British ice hockey before putting pen to paper, was one of five NHL players to feature in the Elite League during the lockout and his impact has had a profound effect on raising the profile of ice hockey as a whole in the country.
As a two-way forward, Miller is known more for his defensive positioning and interceptions than goal scoring prowess but he still managed to contribute offensively with his lightning speed and puck control, recording 30 points in 23 games.
The experience has been one that the American has savoured and he admits that it has been a worthwhile way to spend the lockout.
He said: “My time here has been awesome. I’ve really enjoyed myself. It’s been an experience that I definitely won’t forget and the guys here have made it a great experience hockey wise to give me the chance to play a different role than I would back home.
“I tried to make the most of it and I didn’t want to come in here and be one of those guys where they’re like ‘Oh I can’t believe this guy is here,’ I wanted to be part of the team and work hard.”
It was an experience that was perhaps unique to other European leagues due to the North American style of hockey played in Britain as well as the larger ice pads in comparison to the NHL. He could have been forgiven for being somewhat underwhelmed when skating out to only a few thousand fans at rinks across the country that seemed tiny in contrast to Detroit’s 20,000 capacity Joe Louis Arena, however his work rate and commitment to the Clan quickly endeared himself to the Braehead faithful.
Miller added: “It’s going to be tough to leave. Being here has been great. The fans are great here and welcomed me and gave me a nice send off and I appreciate that and my time here and with the players and the organisation.”
With Braehead only being in their third year in existence when the American joined, the addition of Miller to their roster was seen as an even bigger coup and one that the Clan look set to reap the benefits of for years to come.
It was an experience that offered so much for both parties and one that has surpassed all expectations. Braehead had a genuine world-class talent on their roster and were able to market the club to a wider audience and establish themselves as one of the Elite League’s major teams.
As for Drew Miller, he returns to the biggest stage in hockey having captured the hearts of the Clan fans and leaves behind memories as a great ambassador for the sport and one that has helped Braehead grow into a mainstream Scottish sporting institution.
This article appeared on the STV Sport website on 7th January 2013.