Todd Miller has been calling Vernon Viper hockey games since current head coach Jason Williamson was captain.
But after more than 1,000 B.C. Hockey League games, Miller is signing off the airwaves and relinquishing his role as the voice of the Vipers.
The long-time play-by-play man will now refocus his efforts on the organization’s business operations in his role as assistant general manager and alternate governor.
The shuffle will allow Miller to dedicate himself solely to the Vipers’ day-to-day operations, including everything from game-night operations to sponsorship and promotions to ticketing and security to coordinating volunteers.
With Vernon hosting the RBC Cup national Junior A championships in May, Miller said it will be important to make sure everything is running smoothly during the lead-up.
“We definitely have some room for improvement in business operations,” said Miller. “We’ll have the opportunity to make some changes and have more bodies help us with some of the issues that we’ve had.
“Like any coach will tell you, there’s room for improvement for the on-ice product. The same goes for the off-ice product.”
Added Williamson: “We’re going into a season where we’re going to be under the microscope the whole time. There’s a lot of things in the office that he takes care of. He’ll make sure it runs smoothly so I don’t have to worry about it.”
One of the main reasons for Miller’s decision to step back was his family. He has two young sons – Tanner, four, and nine-month-old Ty – who he would like to see more of. That can’t happen when he’s on the road with the Snakes, sometimes returning from trips in the middle of the night.
“I owe it to my boys to spend more time with them,” said Miller.
“My wife (Tiffany) was one of the people that wanted me to continue with play-by-play. She was playing devil’s advocate to make sure I was ready to make this decision.”
Miller jumpstarted his play-by-play career with the Merritt Centennials in 1998, moving to the Viper den in 2003, the same year Cents’ agitator Luke Pierce was traded to Vernon.
He still recalls the infamous brawl in the hall between the Cents and Vipers in the final regular-season game of the 2002-03 season in Vernon. The game wasn’t even over and both teams started warring in the players’ tunnel, coaches and all.
Miller is probably one of the only people who heard the story from both sides.
Despite the monotony and cramped legs that come with time on the road, Miller said he will miss travelling with the Vipers. The camaraderie that comes from bussing about with a close-knit, fun-loving bunch of teenagers is truly a unique experience.
“There’s plenty that I will miss for sure,” said Miller. “There are things about the road you definitely enjoy.”
Of all the games he called, Miller said the Vipers’ three straight appearances in the RBC Cup final are his most memorable. The first time in particular.
He can still recall the 2009 final between Vernon and Humboldt at Victoria’s Bear Mountain Arena, and watching the towering Kyle Bigos dangle through pretty much the entire Bronco defence to score the goal of the tournament.
“That was the insurance marker,” said Miller. “Up to that point the game was in limbo.
“When you get to that point, you’re not calling the game on what you see, you’re calling it on pure emotion.
“There’s something extra special about getting up in the press box and calling a game and relaying that to listeners.”
Miller is one of a handful of BCHL announcers capable of calling a game with passion, but without letting his home-team bias get in the way. Those are some of the traits Williamson will be looking for in Miller’s replacement.
“Play by play is huge,” said Williamson. “We have such a loyal following and we have to keep them excited about Viper hockey when we’re not home.
“Todd did such a good job of keeping fans in tune. It’ll be important we find the right guy and keep the standard that Todd for held for 10-plus years.”
The Vipers are now accepting applications for a new broadcaster. Resumes and demos can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, Vipers appear to have fully addressed their surplus of 20-year-old players.
Williamson dealt 1993-born forward Liam Board to the Georgetown Raiders of the OJHL for future considerations Wednesday afternoon. The move leaves Vernon with six 20-year-old players, the maximum allowed by the B.C. Hockey League.
Board, a Burlington, Ont. native, recorded five goals and 10 assists in 33 games with Vernon. He started the season with the Prince George Spruce Kings, where he posted 5-9-14 in 23 games.
The Vipers’ remaining 20s include forwards Colton Sparrow and Brendan Persley, defencemen Jason Bird, Josh Bryan and Ryan Renz, and netminder Austin Smith.