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Miller Is Star of This Show

The announcer, who has spent three-plus decades with Kings, is honored on Hollywood Walk of Fame.

October 03, 2006|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Bob Miller enjoyed real star power Monday.

With a crowd of about 150 and a live television audience looking on, the Hall of Fame announcer for the Kings received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

For a guy beginning his 34th season with L.A.'s hockey team, it was only a matter of time.

There was a time, however, when the much-honored and highly respected play-by-play man wasn't sure he'd make it past the first season.

Miller was hired by Jack Kent Cooke, who then owned the Lakers and the Kings.

Miller, a native of Chicago and an Iowa graduate who had been announcing football, basketball and hockey at Wisconsin, wasn't quite prepared for Cooke.

As a Canadian, Cooke considered himself a hockey expert and listened closely to his new announcer. And he only wanted to hear positive words, even though there weren't many positive things to say about the Kings then.

The hands-on owner would even call in the middle of a broadcast and tell Miller he was talking too much, he wasn't trying hard enough to sell tickets, or, worse, he was being too critical of the Kings.

"It was about a month and a half into that first season," Miller said last week, "and I thought, 'This isn't going to work out.' I remember distinctly driving to a game and saying to myself, 'I can't do a sport that is this fast if I have to worry about every word out of my mouth. Tonight, I am just going to do the game and not worry about it.' "

Miller now wonders how he survived. "I worked for Cooke for six years, but I only think I lasted that long because he was out of town for four of those," he said.

In 1979, Jerry Buss bought the teams and life changed for Miller.

"He totally left me alone," Miller said. "In fact, sometimes I wondered if he was even listening."

Among Miller's many honors is when Tim Leiweke, president of current owner AEG, presented him with a symbolic lifetime contract in 1998.

Miller remembers that night well. Chick Hearn and Vin Scully were secretly invited to take part in a ceremony. Miller had the night off and as he and his wife, Judy, walked toward the ice, Miller said they spotted Marge Hearn.

"I was wondering why Marge was there and said to Judy, 'I guess Marge is a closet hockey fan,' " Miller said.

Miller, who turns 68 this month, said his contract is for three more years plus an option year.

"My greatest fear is that I retire and the Kings win a Stanley Cup the next year," he said.

At Monday's ceremony, Leiweke tried to ease that fear by telling Miller that "you have my word ... before this is all over and you define your lifetime, we're going to get you a Stanley Cup."

Longtime Kings star Luc Robitaille, who retired at the end of last season, also spoke at the ceremony and said, "We finally have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame."

larry.stewart@latimes.com

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