WILMINGTON –As a kid growing up and playing hockey in Southern California, Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller was always on the lookout for a role model.
One night his parents took him to Los Angeles to see the “Phantom of the Opera” and surprisingly Miller found his hero.
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Blake attended the same performance, and Miller got to meet Blake and get an autograph.
Blake left his mark on the NHL and all over Southern California by starring for the Kings for 14 years over two stints during a career that also included stops in Colorado and San Jose, a Norris Trophy win and a Stanley Cup championship with the Avalanche in 2001.
Blake, along with Peter Forsberg, Mike Modano and Dominik Hasek, will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player Monday night in Toronto. Former Bruins coach Pat Burns will also be inducted.
Miller said Monday that one of the first jerseys he ever bought was a Rob Blake jersey. And Blake helped give Miller the dream to one day play in the NHL.
“He was just an all-around player,” Miller recalled. “He created offense, he was good at defense, he was a physical guy, a big guy. He did his job right. He was a huge fan favorite in LA when I was younger. So it was pretty cool to see him [make the Hall of Fame].”
Miller wasn’t the only person related to the Bruins to be affected by the current Hall of Fame class. Like most young goalies of a certain age, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask marveled at what Hasek was able to accomplish and tried to duplicate the Buffalo great’s moves.
“I think every kid tried. Because that’s his style, his style was the backyard goalie who didn’t have enough gear to cover the net, so he’d have to flop around. So I tried it all the time,” Rask said.
Bruins forward Loui Eriksson was teammates with Modano in Dallas. Eriksson said Modano impressed him with being a nice guy as well as a great player.
“He was such a legend in American even in Dallas when he played there. So it was pretty cool to be able to play with him and be a part of a couple years with him,” Eriksson said.
Bruins coach Claude Julien, who was presented with the 2009 Jack Adams Award by Burns, has fond memories of Burns. Julien duplicated a lot of Burns’ career by coaching in Hull (QMJHL), New Jersey, Montreal and Boston.
“Well it’s nice to see him get that honor, obviously,” Julien said. “Very deserving, a guy who’s coached different teams and won the Jack Adams three times with three different teams says a lot about a coach, what he can do to turn teams around. That says a lot about Pat. The tough Pat from the outside was actually a soft Pat on the inside. When you got to know him, a good-hearted person and even with all our staff here, guys still talk about him, how he would make them laugh and was funny and was good-natured at times. But yet when he wasn’t a happy guy everybody knew it too. So he had a personality that was pretty intimidating at times. But for what he accomplished, the Jack Adams, the Stanley Cup and all the years he put into this league, it was I think certainly warranted and well-deserved and I’m really happy for him. It’s a great honor to have him in there be remembered for it.”