Jan 22, 2014, 5:08 PM EST
Bob Miller has a unique perspective on the Stadium Series game being played between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium this Saturday.
Miller, the LA Kings’ broadcaster since 1973 and a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in 2000, bleeds Kings black and silver.
However, as much as Miller is known as the voice of the Kings, he’s also known by some fans for his role as the play-by-play man in the first two versions of The Mighty Ducks movies, which helped give birth to Anaheim’s NHL team.
In advance of the Stadium Series game between the Kings and Ducks, NBC Sports recently caught up with the 75-year-old Miller, to get the behind-the-scenes scoop of filming The Mighty Ducks movies, and to preview this weekend’s contest.
NBC Sports: Starting at the beginning — how were you selected to appear in The Mighty Ducks movies? What was the auditioning process like?
Miller: I just got a call. They said “we need a hockey announcer, and this is Mighty Ducks No. 1.” I think Steve Brill was the writer of it. I got a call from him, and he asked if I would be interested in doing this movie.
They just told me to come on over, and I don’t recall doing an audition for it. They had heard me doing LA Kings games, and figured they’d use me because I was a hockey announcer. We did it over at the Disney studios in Burbank.
NBC Sports: So, Steve Brill just called you and you drove down to the movie set and starting filming? What was it like doing play-by-play in a movie after having been the Kings’ broadcaster for almost 20 years?
Miler: As you’re walking around the lot at Disney you see all these references to things like, “this is where they did the sound for The Wizard of Oz or some other show.” All of a sudden you realize that you’re in a pretty exclusive area.
I went in there and did post audio. I would look at the screen and they’d give me a cue, like three dots, and I’d start. They’d preview it for me, and I’d make some notes. The only problem I had with some of it was trying to recapture the emotion you have in an actual game. When you’re in the setting, fans are cheering and you’re not hearing that (in the studio).
You try to make it exciting, but the atmosphere is kind of dull in the studio.
NBC Sports: Not only are you used to calling games in full arenas, but you’re also used to improvising everything you say on the fly, as the play transpires. Did you get to improvise at all in the movies? Or was it all scripted?
Miller: They had it scripted, but I could throw some things in that maybe they didn’t have written down.
NBC Sports: In D2: The Mighty Ducks, perhaps your most famous line is your call of Kenny Wu’s goal against Iceland – “woo, woo, woo, Kenny Wu!” Was this line something you added, or was it in the script?
Miller: It was in the script. They told me his last name is Wu so when he scores, kind of drag that out. That’s the quote, especially when fans who have seen that see me, they’ll start going “woo, woo, woo!” Some of these lines, you thought that it might be silly to say that, but those stick with people.
NBC Sports: Assuming “woo, woo, woo” isn’t something that would be said in an actual hockey broadcast, are there are any other parts of the movie you could just never imagine in a real hockey game?
Miller: Some of the things were a little far-fetched. They had The Flying V, and the one kid came out and he had a lasso. When you do traditional hockey games, you think: “I don’t know if this is really going to work.”
NBC Sports: So, your call of the Flying V plays. How much of that was scripted and how much was stuff you added in?
Miller: We’d go over a few things, like “here’s the Flying V formation,” and with things that would happen with the score. But there were things with that you could throw in on your own. But you could embellish on that. “Here’s the Flying V and there’s a drop pass,” or whatever they did not put in the script that’s more specific.
NBC Sports: You also did some voice-over work in the TV show Cheers, where you did some improvisation?
Miller: It’s in the episodes where the bartender (Carla, played by Rhea Perlman), her boyfriend is the Boston Bruins goaltender (Eddie LeBec, played by Jay Thomas).
The funny thing about that was they called me in the morning and asked if I could help their writers write the play-by-play. They just did not know how to write it. I didn’t know if it was a union thing or not, so I asked if they had to script it.
I said: “Why don’t you just give me 12 names and I’ll make it up?”
They go: “Oh my gosh, you saved us a whole day of work!”
You could just make up (the play-by-play), because nobody really knew what was happening (with the on-ice action used in the show).
NBC Sports: Back to The Mighty Ducks. Do you have any idea if any of the kids were good players, or if Emilio Estevez could skate well?
Miller: I didn’t get to meet any of them, didn’t get to meet (Emilio Estevez) either. Most of that was already filmed by the time I got to come in and see it. So, I wasn’t on the spot doing them.
NBC Sports: In D2, you get a scene where your face is on camera. You were definitely in the arena for that. What was filming your on-camera scene like?
Miller: What I remember about that was that it was filmed down in Anaheim, at what’s now the Honda Center.
I remember going into the arena and thinking: “Wow, they have a full house here.” Then I look closer, and nobody was moving! The people were cardboard cut-outs – not all of them, but a lot of them – of people sitting in the stands. On a live shot, it looked like the whole place was filled.
I got there at noon, and the 20 seconds of on-camera that I did were shot at about 7:30 at night. This is when it finally dawned on me that I probably wouldn’t want to permanently be in this business.
NBC Sports: Obviously, when the movies came out, you probably never dreamed they would be so successful that there would eventually be an NHL team named after them. What was your reaction when you found out the Mighty Ducks would be joining the NHL?
Miller: We were on the air that night – my partner, Jim Fox, and I – doing a Kings telecast.
And I said to him: “Jim, did you see what they named that team in Anaheim?”
He’s like: “Yeah, they’re going to be called the Mighty Ducks.”
Then I said: “And as an expansion team, they’re also going to be known as the ‘Dead Ducks’, the ‘Sitting Ducks’ and the ‘Lame Ducks.’” We kind of laughed about it.
The next day, I was out doing Christmas shopping, I got home and my wife told me that Michael Eisner wanted me to call him. He was the head of Disney and the owner of the team. I thought he was upset with what we had said the prior night. So, I called him back and didn’t know what to expect.
He came on the phone and says: “Bob, I was watching your game last night and thanks for the mention of our team!”
NBC Sports: Years after you were in the movies, the NHL Ducks have gone on to be very successful, and are one of the Kings’ top rivals. The game at Dodger Stadium is probably going to ramp up the rivalry even more. What are your thoughts on the Kings-Ducks rivalry, and the Stadium Series game later this week?
Miller: I don’t think we’d have thought when they came into the League in ’93 that they would win a Stanley Cup (in 2007) before the Kings would win one (in 2012). But, it’s two Stanley Cups in Southern California in six years. The outdoor game is going to bring more attention to it (the rivalry). Not only among those avid fans, but also among those casual fans.
Maybe people will see that the game is outdoors and just want to see what it is like – bringing the ice truck in, laying down the ice rink and, of course, having the beach volleyball set up in left field, inline skating set up at home plate and a concert in right field. I think that’ll bring more fans in when we get back indoors in a regular setting.
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