It’s been 615 days since Ryan Miller was last in Buffalo, where he played for more than 10 years, so naturally he had quite a few people to see.
He told them to wait.
Miller quietly snuck away from the Canucks team hotel early Friday morning to visit Roswell Park Cancer Institute, which he frequented as a member of the Sabres.
Early in Miller’s time in Buffalo he founded the Steadfast Foundation to benefit those battling cancer, especially children with the disease. He worked closely with local hospitals, including Roswell Park through Carly’s Club for Kids & Cancer Research, and charity groups to raise money and awareness for local cancer patients.
During his surprise appearance, Miller spent as much time as he could personally checking in on young cancer fighters ahead of practicing with the Canucks Friday afternoon.
One visit was with nine-year-old Luke, known as the Band-Aid King, who is being treated for leukemia. Ryan remembered Luke and boy did Luke ever remember Ryan. The bubbly youngster immediately pulled up a photo of the last time the two met, with Miller wearing a red Santa Clause hat to celebrate the holidays.
The smile on Luke’s face was a big on this day as it was then. Same goes for Skyla, Triniti and Kayla, who all received private visits from their favourite goaltender.
When Miller spoke with the media at the First Niagara Center following Friday’s practice, he didn’t mention the visit. He did, however, touch on his love for Buffalo and its people, and how much they mean to him.
Once a Buffalonian, always a Buffalonian.
During the press conference a local reporter told Miller the Sabres have carried on his legacy with Carly’s Club and remain heavily involved with the organization.
This time the smile was on Miller’s face.
Don’t expect him to be talking any trash pre-game Saturday afternoon before the Canucks face the Sabres, Miller will be dishing out gratitude the same way he served up smiles to the kids who need them most.
You can take Miller out of Buffalo, but you can’t take Buffalo out of Miller.
Late Thursday when we arrived in Buffalo, I asked Miller if myself and Canucks camera guy Paul Albi could follow him as he walked to the rink Friday morning. He said no, he was heading to the hospital to do some visiting.
I asked if we could capture the visits and he again politely declined, saying it was about the kids, not him seeing the kids.
Today in passing I asked how the visit was he said good, without elaborating. Ask Miller a question and he’ll usually give you a longer answer than you need; he’s methodical and tells a great story. His relationship with the kids at Roswell Park is clearly dear to him, but it’s not for personal gain. It’s about making kids smile and bringing them hope.
No wonder Buffalo never got over the goalie who got away. For someone who plays a position that requires him down most of the time, he’s a standup guy.
And he’ll likely be mad I wrote this. I’ll update you on if we’re still friends later in the trip.