Friday, January 4, 2019

Kip Miller Autographed Card

If the Canadians have a few of what can be dubbed "Hockey's Royal Families", notably the Sutters from Alberta, the Millers from Michigan are without a doubt their American equivalent. At last count, ten Millers had suited up for the Michigan State University Spartans, including two Hobey Baker Award winners: goaltender Ryan Miller (also a Vezina winner and Olympic silver medalist) and Kip Miller, the Québec Nordiques' fourth-round pick (72nd overall) at the 1987 NHL draft who won a playoff MVP award in the IHL but never quite made his mark in the NHL.

He wasn't a bad player by any means - he had two consecutive 42-point seasons in 1998-99 and 1999-2000 playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and even went on to collect 50 points in 2002-03 on a Washington Capitals team where only established "name" players Jaromir Jagr (77), Robert Lang (69), Sergei Gonchar (67), Peter Bondra (56) and Michael Nylander (56) did better; Miller's major problem was that he was a smallish (5'10", 185 pounds) skilled playmaker who was just not "first-line material" and wasn't good enough defensively to play the two-way game necessary to man a second line in the clutch-and-grab Dead Puck Era of the turn of the millennium.

His AHL totals are impressive (123 goals and 204 assists for 327 points in 326 games and just 188 penalty minutes), but his IHL totals are off the charts (216 goals, 363 assists and 597 points in 468 games), denoting a high skill level and understanding of the game. He retired at age 37 following a 25-goal, 47-assist and 72-point season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings' development team, ending his career pretty much where it had started.

Ryan's brother Drew Miller and Kip's brother Kevin Miller are the lone members of the family to have suited up for the Wings, while Kip's other brother Kelly Miller also retired after a year with the Griffins. Kevin, Drew and Kelly captained the Spartans, while Kip wore the "A".

Kip is also the only player in NHL history to have had three separate stints with the New York Islanders.

Here's how I'll always remember him, though, as #49 in my Nordiques Numbers Project, sporting the team's amazing dark blue (away) uniform:
That's card #42 from O-Pee-Chee's 1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier set, which surprisingly ended up being worth a lot of money but at the time cost relatively little to build (the link gets you a full box for $12). He signed it in blue sharpie between 2005 and 2007, so while he was an AHLer in his final seasons, either with the Chicago Wolves or the Griffins.

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