They got it right, coaxing cold bronze into capturing the warmth of a man who was a constant presence in the life of Kings fans for more than four decades.
The statue of Bob Miller that was unveiled Saturday night outside of Staples Center has a welcoming, friendly presence, like the man himself.
The bronzed version of Miller — created by husband and wife sculptors Julie Rotblatt-Amrany and Omri Amrany — holds a microphone in his right hand, representing the 44 years he spent as the broadcast voice of the Kings, and has his left arm upraised in greeting. It’s a slice of a life well-lived, a man well-loved by those who learned about the game and its characters from him. “You felt like he was with you in your living room,” said Luc Robitaille, who gave Miller plenty of goal-scoring moments to describe during a Hall of Fame career and is now the Kings president.
To listen to Miller was to become his student and his fan. To meet him is to gain a friend and be touched by his uncommon grace.
“If there was a Hall of Fame just for Hall of Famers, automatic first ballot,” his longtime TV broadcast partner Jim Fox said Saturday before a banner depicting a microphone and Miller’s name was raised to the rafters inside the arena.
Miller, 79, was beset by health problems in his last few years and retired after last season. Although he worked for the Kings he never shilled for them, as many announcers do.
That was true even in the early days when bombastic Jack Kent Cooke owned the franchise and ordered Miller to say during broadcasts that Marcel Dionne scooted around the ice like the sporty car that was a club sponsor.
When the Kings played well, Miller’s enjoyment was obvious. When they didn’t play up to expectations he would inject the right note of indignation into his play by play. They were letting the fans down and he wasn’t going to let that go unnoticed. It was through him that fans heard stories about the parsimonious Cooke, the greatness of Wayne Gretzky and, finally, in 2012, the unparalleled joy of winning the Stanley Cup.
Minutes after the Kings won the first of their two Cup championships, then-team captain Dustin Brown insisted on having Miller brought down to the ice so he could hoist the Cup, too, so much a part of the Kings was Miller to players and to fans.
“I had such a good relationship with Kings fans for years and I’ve always been aware of their passion for this team and their loyalty and the years they’ve waited for the Stanley Cup championships,” Miller said, clearly moved by the numbers of people who attended the unveiling of the statue before entering the arena for the banner ceremony and the Kings’ game against the Ducks.
That the statue was placed near the figure of legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn was another perfect note. It was Hearn who recommended Miller for the job and ran interference when Miller ran afoul of Cooke. “When I heard about the statue I was afraid I might be in Chick’s lap,” Miller joked.
Miller misses the immediacy of doing live television but he doesn’t miss the travel and the hours of preparation he devoted to each broadcast. “And I miss being on the road with colleagues and having dinner and having fun and telling jokes,” he said. “I’m always kind of thinking, looking at my watch, ‘Right now they’re taking off and they’re flying somewhere and I’m not there.’ ”
But he will always be a presence outside Staples Center, as well as in the banner that swayed above the ice Saturday night, in his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in his plaque in Toronto as a Hockey Hall of Fame broadcast honoree. He stands in bronze outside the Kings’ rink amid a group of luminaries.
Asked what Cooke might have said about his statue, Miller took on Cooke’s overbearing tones. “Dear boy,” Miller intoned, “what did you ever do to deserve a statue?”
He did a lot, and he did it well and with class.
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