Joe Miller

Who is Joe Miller? That's how many of these biographies start out. At first glance he was an old time goalie with some pretty bad teams. But a closer look suggests Miller was actually a pretty good netminder!

Born in Morrisburg Ontario, Miller play senior hockey in Ottawa for many years before turning pro in 1924. He then played 3 seasons in the minors before signing as a free agent with the New York Americans in 1927.

Miller, like many of his teammates in New York, emerged from his first season in the NHL as a bit of a joke. Despite playing really solid in net, he had little support from his team. He appeared in 28 games and won only 8, while losing 16 and tying 4. But he also earned an impressive 5 shutouts. Though it was hardly Miller's fault, he sported the 9th worst GAA in a 10 team league and the unforgiving NY media and fans dubbed him "Red Light Miller." Soon enough he was kidded around the entire league!

But Joe would get the last laugh. Later in the same season, long after the NY Americans were eliminated from Stanley Cup competition, Miller was called upon once again, this time by a New York team that didn't even employ him!

You see, during the 1928 Stanley Cup finals between the Montreal Maroons and New York Rangers, regular Ranger keeper Lorne Chabot was seriously injured in the second game of the series. In one of the greatest moments in the long storied history of the great game of hockey, Ranger's 44 year old coach Lester Patrick replaced Chabot for game 3, as no replacement could be found in time for the game. Patrick went on to backstop the Rangers to a victory. Patrick however was unwilling to step back into nets for the rest of the series, so he asked Joe Miller if he would fill in as an emergency replacement. Joe agreed and Maroons approved.

Miller was very solid in the remainder of the series. He lost his first game as a Ranger 2-0 despite playing very well. The Rangers however went on to win the next two games and Miller surrendered only 1 goal in backstopping the Rangers - his cross-town rivals all year long - to their first Stanley Cup.

"Joe Miller, the substitute goalie, was the hero" stated Toronto Star columnist Lou Marsh at the conclusion of the series. Marsh may have been the only one to notice though. Most of the attention went to Patrick for his legendary stunt. Miller was quickly forgotten about.

Despite his heroics, the Americans traded Miller to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Roy Worters. The Pirates were an awful team that not even "Shrimp" Worters could save. But Miller tried his best in two seasons.

His first season, 1928-29, Miller had a spectacular season that is all but forgotten about now. His personal win-loss record was awful as was to be expected - just 9 wins in 44 contests. Yet somehow, he managed to post 11 shutouts! Obviously there was a couple of scoreless ties in there somewhere. That is amazing! It is also probably the only time a starting goalie has posted more shutouts than he did wins!

Miller couldn't hold the fort in 1929-30. He got just 5 wins in 43 appearances. He had no shutouts this time around. In fact he gave up more than double the amount of goals against. The Red Light jokes were back.

The Pirates became the Philadelphia Quakers in 1930-31. Miller only got into 12 games that season, winning 2 of them while surrendering 47 goals against. That was the last year that Miller appeared in the National Hockey League.

Miller played one more year of minor league hockey before hanging up his goalie pads in 1932.


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