Photo by Rena Laverty
Growing up in West Bloomfield, Michigan, Tommy Miller never had to look far to find hockey role models. The youngest of five children, all Miller’s siblings played hockey through the high school or AAA level. But it was his oldest sister Margot who had the greatest influence on him.
Margot moved to Minnesota to play at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School when Tommy was 8, and that parlayed into a four-year career at the University of North Dakota. Despite the distance, the siblings kept in close contact, and they still do today, as Tommy embarks on his first season with the U.S. National Under-18 Team.
“We still talk about hockey, whether it’s good or bad,” said Miller, who joins the U18 squad after playing last season mostly with the U.S. National Under-17 Team and Victory Honda U18. “It’s nice that she can watch my games and I can see her and we can talk about it.”
Miller began his hockey career as a forward. He switched back to defense about four years ago, and has since grown into a 6-foot-2, 177-pound, two-way player.
“I think I take care of the defensive zone more than the offensive zone,” said Miller, who wants to be known as a two-way defenseman. “I take a sense of responsibility in protecting my zone. I know when it’s the right time and right place to make the jump into the play.”
Miller enters his first season as a full-time member of Team USA. He spent the 2015-16 season with Victory Honda U18, and also appeared in 22 contests for the U.S. National Under-17 Team, including the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Miller recalled being nervous ahead of his first NTDP experience last year, a campaign in which he tallied three goals and eight points.
“I got on for my first shift and I was thinking it isn’t too bad,” Miller said. “I was going out against faster and bigger guys. As I continued, I realized I could play with this team. I started to play on the penalty kill and gained more confidence. I scored some goals and really started to feel that I was part of the team.”
That experience from last year has definitely helped him with the transition this season.
“It was much easier,” he stated. “I’m practicing with great players. I feel better playing in the games. The training has been intense but I’m definitely getting faster and stronger. I’m working on the details of my game.”
In addition to adjusting to a new team, Miller is also working with a new head coach, former NTDP player John Wroblewski, who enters his first season behind the U18 bench.
“The practices are different than last year as Coach Wrobo loves his drills,” said Miller. “We are always working to get better. It’s almost scary. Every day, whether it’s in the classroom, or in the weight room, or on the ice, we want to get better as a team.”
One constant remains for Miller, and that is the feeling he gets when he wears the colors of his country.
“Nothing else compares,” he stated. “I can’t believe all the people that fought for this country so I have this opportunity to wear the jersey and play for this great country.”
In addition to playing for Team USA, Miller helped the U.S. Under-18 Select Team to a second-place finish at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. At the tournament, he led all U.S. defensemen with two points (1-1) in five games.
“It was really fun,” said Miller on his experience. “I enjoyed every game of international competition. The game against the Czech Republic was great. All their fans were there and the place was rocking. There was just so much energy in the building.”
It’s that energy that Miller plans to bring each and every time he steps out onto the ice.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo by Rena Laverty
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