By Michael Caples –
EAST LANSING – Cousins Kip and Ryan Miller added more hardware to their trophy cases together yesterday.
The two members of the Miller clan – 10 have played college hockey in East Lansing – were officially welcomed into the Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday as part of the 2013 class of inductees.
The two Spartan alums now share hall of fame plaques, along with their varsity letters, All-American selections, and Hobey Baker awards – the only two MSU products to capture college hockey’s highest individual award.
However, Kip will always have something to hold over Ryan’s head.
“I played one game on him, and I scored one on him,” the elder Miller said with a smile.
The cousins met in an American Hockey League contest in the early 2000s, Ryan just starting his pro career, and Kip just wrapping up his.
“That was fun,” Ryan said while shaking his head. “We won the game, so it was all good. We ended up winning. He scored early in the first, got a nice rebound I think.
“I could hear him all night, running his mouth, so that was fun, but it was great. My dad ended up making it up to town, he drove out for that game. We went over to the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que right behind the rink…had some barbecue and some beers, had a good laugh about it. I’m just glad we won, because I wouldn’t hear the end of it.”
The two Millers both have plenty to brag about, of course. Kip finished his MSU career in 1990 with 116 goals and 261 points, both good for third-most in school history, before playing in 449 NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques, Minnesota North Stars, San Jose Sharks, New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. He ended with 239 career NHL points.
Meanwhile, Ryan rewrote the record books in East Lansing from 1999-2002; he holds seven MSU career and single-season goaltending records, and NCAA records for career save percentage (.941) and shutouts (26). The Buffalo Sabres netminder, entering his ninth full NHL season, is expected to challenge for the Team USA Olympic roster, after leading the Americans to the silver medal in the 2010 Vancouver games.
Both returned to East Lansing this week to be part of the 2013 induction class to their alma mater’s athletics hall of fame, an honor that will be relished by the long list of family members who wore the Green and White.
“This university has meant so much to my family for so long,” Ryan said. “My grandfather coming down in the 1950s, and then just a whole rush of people coming through on all different sides of the families. My mom’s side, obviously on my dad’s side, the Miller side, our involvement with Michigan State started immediately upon birth, to be honored by the university and become a part of the hall of fame is a tremendous honor and I don’t take it lightly.
“This university has been just a huge part of my life. It gave me so much direction when I was younger, as I came here as a student and a student-athlete, it only helped me find my way even more. I kind of identified what I wanted to do, and I had so many resources here, that, again, just very thankful that I had the opportunity to be here, and this is just, hard to describe. It’s very, very cool.”
Kip said that being inducted with his cousin made it that much more special for him.
“Being inducted with Ryan is an honor for me. Watching Ryan these days and what he’s become is quite amazing for me. We’ve all played in the NHL, well me and my brothers and his brother (Red Wings forward Drew Miller), and to see the success he’s having, knowing how hard it is, it’s awesome. So that, for me, is an honor.
“For me, growing up Miller, and being a Spartan from the get-go, this is amazing. I’m a Spartan fan first, I always was, and I got to go to Michigan State and live the dream and now you guys are honoring me saying I did something really good while I was here. I’ve looked at the people who are in the hall of fame, and those are all people I grew up watching. A lot of them, you know, Kirk Gibson, I remember him here and all the stories about how far he hit a baseball and how good he was playing football and Tom Ross, I watched him play, he’s awesome, Lorenzo White, I was a huge Lorenzo White fan as a kid, you know, it’s amazing.”
While addressing the media before the official induction ceremony, Ryan said watching Kip capture the 1990 Hobey Baker award as a big reason why he was able to find his own hockey success.
“I remember when I wasn’t playing hockey myself, we had season tickets at the time, we would come and watch a lot of his goals and watch him control the play,” Ryan said. “Tremendous puck-handler, great vision on the ice, and I remember going to watch him receive the award. It wasn’t the same kind of display they put on now, it’s even evolved since I won the award. I think it was at the Olympia Club at Joe Louis Arena, they had a ceremony for him with a small group of media and a little bit of family and it was not as hyped up as it is now, but it was fun to be there and definitely inspiring.
“I would definitely put that as a moment that showed me, well my cousin did something, maybe I can do it. Kelly, Kevin and Kip definitely did that for us. Not going to speak too much for my brother, but for me, it was inspirational to see what they could do, they could take a career in hockey, to Michigan State and then move along to the pros, it just kind of lit up the path for us. Someone we knew, they did it, maybe we could do it.”