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J.T. Miller asked for Bure’s number 10 when he joined the Canucks

In an interview on the Cam & Strick Podcast, J.T. Miller revealed the gaffe he made when he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks.
J.T. Miller spoke openly and honestly about his career and the Vancouver Canucks in an interview on the Cam & Strick Podcast.

When J.T. Miller first joined the Vancouver Canucks, he accidentally asked for a retired number.

Miller wore 10 with both the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning before he was traded to the Canucks, so when he was coming to Vancouver he thought he’d keep the same number.

“I wore 10 forever,” said Miller in an interview with Cam Janssen and Andy Strickland. “When I got traded there, [equipment manager] Patty O’Neill called me and said, ‘Hey, what are you gonna wear?’

“I said 10 and he just laughed. I was like, ‘Man, pardon me, I don’t know — whose is it again?’ and he just said ‘Pavel.’ And I said, ‘Aw s***, I completely forgot.’”

Miller ended up with number 9 instead and the only player wearing a former Pavel Bure number this past season was Andrei Kuzmenko, wearing the number 96 that Bure wore for a couple of ill-fated seasons before switching back to 10.

That story came at the end of a wide-ranging interview where Miller touched on a variety of topics, including the traffic on the Lion’s Gate Bridge, though he suggested his commute from West Vancouver pales in comparison to what he dealt with early in his career.

“The Lions Gate Bridge, going from the downtown to the North Shore, it could be a s***show, no doubt,” he said. “Honestly, when I came in the league and was playing for the Rangers, I mean, it took me 35 minutes to go like 15 blocks so it seems like nothing.”

"It's just another season I want to erase."

As for on the ice, Miller said he’s eager to turn the page from last season, which is understandable.

Miller was optimistic ahead of the 2022-23 season, saying at the start of training camp, “Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup.”

That was perhaps a bit bold, but the playoffs seemed like a distinct possibility after putting together a 32-15-10 record under new head coach Bruce Boudreau a year before. But all of that optimism disintegrated upon impact with the reality of the season itself. The Canucks kicked off the season with a seven-game losing streak and never got back on track. Boudreau, the season’s saviour a year earlier, was fired.

Along the way, the uncomfortable glare of the spotlight shone on Miller, who found himself repeatedly victimized in the defensive zone. Only two forwards in the NHL were on the ice for more goals against than Miller, which was only partly a reflection of his own defensive play, as the Canucks’ defence and goaltending struggled significantly.

“I mean, you could write a book about last season,” said Miller. “About everything from our start, you know, Travis [Green] getting fired two years ago, I guess, to Bruce [Boudreau] coming in and then the whole s***show with Bruce at the end of his tenure — I don't even know what to say, it was just so bad. 

“It's just another season I want to erase.”

The lowest point of the season was Boudreau getting fired and not just because the team was struggling so much that firing the head coach was necessary, but instead because of how drawn out and painful his dismissal was.

“How can you not feel bad?” said Miller. “I mean, Bruce is one of the best humans I've had as a coach behind the bench my whole life. He's just a really great person and I know that everybody and their mother would tell you guys the same thing. When you see somebody that you really care about, it sucks to see them go through that.”

"I shouldn't have to explain myself."

Miller’s struggles gained national attention after one moment — one that was perhaps overblown — in a late December game against the Winnipeg Jets. In the final minute of play, a frustrated Miller had one of the emotional outbursts that he’s said he wants to get out of his game. As Collin Delia hesitated to leave his net for the extra attacker, Miller yelled at the goaltender, then slammed his stick on the back of the net when Delia still wasn’t heading for the bench.

That moment was followed up by one of Miller’s worst games of the season, which happened to be on Hockey Night in Canada. The intermission panel devoted a two-minute segment to ripping Miller for his effort level, with former Canuck Kevin Bieksa bluntly saying, “I can’t defend that.”

“The media defined my season with a couple of those moments and I think that that's just really sad,” said Miller. “We were dealing with so much turmoil and so much BS outside of X's and O's in hockey, I think I got outside of my lane trying to help at everything and I should have just been worried about playing hockey. 

“So, when you see the video in Calgary of me not backchecking, that has nothing to do with that play. That has everything to do with I felt exhausted. I just felt tired emotionally and mentally and physically. A guy like me, that cares a lot about everything, I feel like it's also my Achilles heel.”

In other words, the reason why he looked like he didn’t care at times is because he cared too much. 

“Last year was the perfect season for a guy like me to be played as the villain, right?” said Miller. “I obviously carry a lot of passion…the thing I care about the most is being there for my teammates, and then when I feel like I'm not doing enough or feel like I'm not providing enough, the ones that you feel you let down are your teammates. So, when that stuff comes out, you know, it's all a reflection of that.”

As for the incident with Delia, Miller said everything was smoothed over not long after.

“I spoke with the goalie coach and the head coach and I apologized to — was it Delia in net? — and I'm like, 'Delia, I'm sorry if I made you look bad, or anybody looked bad, but I'm not trying to make anybody look bad,'” recalled Miller. “To be honest, I was a little more disappointed we didn't have a plan. Like, I had full possession behind the net, and we couldn't get our f***ing guy on the ice. That's what I was pissed about.”

In Miller’s eyes, there was nothing more to it. He expressed frustration that he even had to speak to the media about the incident.

“I shouldn’t have to explain myself,” said Miller. “I feel like I'm constantly trying to explain myself. Listen, there's enough people that understand me that I get pretty good sleep at night.”

"I just can't stand some of [the media]."

With the attention paid to Miller’s bad moments on the ice and the frequent trade rumours that dogged him last season, it’s not surprising that Miller might not have the most positive view of the media.

“It's not all of them. I just can't stand some of them,” said Miller. “And honestly, I think they know that I feel that way, so it's not really anything to hide.”

Miller typically compartmentalizes during the season, trying to ignore everything that happens off the ice. But this past season, it wasn’t easy for him to block out everything that was said, some of which he said turned “toxic” and “negative.” 

“I mean, I try my best to stay out of it,” said Miller. “I'm not on social or anything, I just have an Instagram — my wife has my Instagram account on her phone for charitable reasons, I don't even have the app on my phone.”

With no online presence, Miller mainly hears from fans in person, whether in his West Vancouver neighbourhood or from the stands in the arena.

“I live in West Vancouver, so I'm on the North Shore and I'm the only guy over there,” said Miller. “It reminds me of home a little more — it's peaceful, it's quiet…the people that live over there, it's an older crowd. It's not like downtown. They're very respectful. It’s more of a ‘nice game’ or ‘nice turnover,’ whatever the hell they want to say, but it's quick and to the point.”

In the arena, fans can sometimes be a bit more rude, but Miller takes it in stride.

“Not a lot of playoff hockey in the last 10 years, right? So, I think that there's a reason to be pissed if you're a fan, no question,” said Miller. "I mean, they're loyal and they care and they have tons and tons of passion…I mean, I have a ton of passion myself. So, I would never fault somebody for yelling, 'Go f*** yourself' on the ice, because you've been playing like s***.”

"We have a better team than we did last year."

Miller is hoping that the media and fans will have less to criticize in the coming season, as he once again is optimistic about the team’s direction.

“Everything just changed when Rick [Tocchet] got there,” said Miller. “I'm definitely excited to kind of turn the page and move on and put some things in the past. I mean, with the deadline and all the rumors about people getting traded — it was just a s***show, to say the least.”

Miller is optimistic that the fresh start from the coaching change can continue on through the coming season 

“We have a better team than we did last year. Everybody's one year more mature and one year more of knowing what to expect,” said Miller. “I think we're going to surprise people. I'm not going to put a number or whatever on it, a place on it. We're a hard team to play against and I think that what we started to build last year with Rick, I think it's really going to be really fun.”