Prompted by various injuries and setbacks, Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller has opted to retire from professional hockey and the National Hockey League. In an Instagram post made to his page (@Kevan_Miller86) in mid-July, the 33-year-old blueliner explained that his declining health has expedited the process leading to an early retirement.
“Although my spirit for the game is there, unfortunately, my body isn’t,” Miller shared. “My overall health and my family are now the priority. This was not an easy decision to make, but it’s time to hang up my skates.”
Plagues by Injuries
In the opening month of just his second NHL season, Miller dislocated his shoulder, which eventually led to season-ending surgery in February of 2015. The following season saw the big defender miss just 11 games, which just so happened to be the healthiest campaign of his career. A broken hand and a concussion caused Miller to miss 23 games in 2016-17. The following season saw 14 total games missed to injury, before the start of a very difficult two years of hockey.
It was in 2018-19 season – Miller’s sixth in the big leagues – that disaster seemingly struck on every curve along the way. The rugged defender missed 13 games with an unfortunate larynx injury after being struck in the throat by a puck in November. He then sat out another 16 contests in March after blocking a shot in his upper-body. Miller returned to the lineup in time to close out the season, or so he thought, until a broken knee cap left him off the team’s playoff roster in game No. 81 of 82. Following knee surgery, the big defenceman was set to make his return to the Bruins’ lineup for the Stanley Cup, but underwent another exceptionally difficult setback as his repaired knee cap broke once again.
“I’m fortunate to have the love and support of my family, close friends, guys on the team, trainers and doctors,” Miller commented in an NHLPA Player Feature. “There were so many people that helped me get to where I always wanted to be. Teammates and friends were constantly checking in on me. For me, I’m a man of faith, and I leaned heavily on that. I think it’s a combination of those things. I love the game, and I had no thoughts of hanging it up. My goal was to get back and play and to contribute again.”
In putting what he thought was the worst of his injury troubles behind him, Miller returned to Bruins’ camp in 2020, just months removed from various surgeries, stem-cell and plasma injections, while following a rigorous rehab schedule that cost him the entire 2019-20 campaign. He was able to suit up in 28 regular seasons and four postseason contests this past year, despite multiple stints on the injured reserve. He actually finished his career on the sideline after being sent to the hospital following a high-hit while facing off against Washington in the playoffs.
The Role of Faith
Miller was voted in as the Bruins’ unanimous nominee for the 2020-21 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy – an annual award that is presented to the player who best perseveres through hardship, health and struggle, while dedicating himself to the game of hockey. In his availability following the award nomination, Miller spoke of how his faith continues to play a significant role in his day-to-day living, despite various setbacks.
“It’s something that I lean on a lot, just knowing it’s kind of out of my hands at this point,” Miller told reporters. “I’m going to do what I can to get back, work hard, do the right things rehab-wise. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. I found some solace in that: that if it’s meant for me to get back playing hockey, then that’s God’s plan. If it’s not, it’s not. That helped me. It took me a while to get to that point, to accept that. But that was one of things where I had that conversation with myself and my family. I leaned on that heavily.”
“I found some solace in that: that if it’s meant for me to get back playing hockey, then that’s God’s plan. If it’s not, it’s not.”
One of only 45 NHL players ever to be born in the state of California, Miller certainly knows how to battle through adversity. Advertising his Christian background on his social media pages, the veteran “tough guy” has also been known to often publicly quote scripture or paraphrase certain pieces of Jesus’ teachings through his Instagram account.
One of the ways that Miller and a number of his teammates have been able to form a tight bond is through weekly chapel meetings with Pastor Dave Ripper. Whether the gatherings are shared over a post-practice meal or in a hotel conference room, the participants tend to leave in a better place than they entered.
“I never really did Bible study,” Miller admitted to WEEI Sports Radio back in 2019. “I still I read the Bible, and I scratch my head sometimes.”
“You’re sharing things that you otherwise wouldn’t share,” he added of his team’s chapel discussions. “When you go out to dinner you’re not talking about these things. So we get into the scripture a little bit, we talk about our faith and family and how things are going; I think it breeds a tighter group.”
Now 33 and officially retired from the game, Miller’s stat-line shows 13 goals, 58 assists and 71 points in 352 regular season games over eight seasons in Boston. Not bad for a guy who was never selected in the NHL Draft.
“I fell In love with this game at five years old, and I knew then that all I wanted to be was a hockey player,” Miller shared in his retirement post. “28 years later, I have the same love and joy for the sport as I did then. Hockey has given me so much, and I am grateful for every bit of it. The ups, the downs, the relationships forged and the opportunity to make a living out of something I love so much; the list goes on and on… I wouldn’t be here without you all. I love you guys. Forever a Bruin.”