If you’ve been a Buffalo Sabres fan at some point since 2005, chances are good that when you see the jersey number 30, you think of Ryan Miller - and for good reason. Miller, who recently retired, played 540 regular-season games with the Sabres while rocking the #30.
That’s why, for many, it was a little startling Monday morning when the Sabres announced a slew of new jersey numbers for the upcoming season, including newcomer Aaron Dell suiting up under #30.
My personal opinion: It will be very strange to see another Sabres goaltender wearing that number - but so long as it isn’t retired, it’s technically fair game. However, having another goaltender wear that number serves as both a joyous reminder of just how good Miller was, and a painful reminder of his departure & eventual retirement, as well as a painful reminder of what has happened in the Sabres organization since he left.
The fan reaction to Dell’s jersey number announcement speaks volumes about Miller’s impact on the Sabres and in the Buffalo community, and reinforces why his #30 should be hung in the rafters at KeyBank Center. Nearly every response to the team’s Tweet is, in some form or another, “why on Earth is this happening?”
While it doesn’t appear that the Sabres will retire Miller’s number or induct him to the team’s Hall of Fame this season, it certainly should happen sooner rather than later. (And for the record, they definitely could make it happen this season. There’s no required ‘waiting period’ after a retirement, and if it’s a franchise player, there’s no real reason to wait. See: the Rangers, who announced plans to retire Henrik Lundqvist’s #30 mere minutes after his retirement announcement.)
Technically, others have at least been assigned that number since Miller’s departure from Buffalo, including Michael Houser entering last year’s training camp. (When he actually played in the NHL, Houser wore 32.) Announcing Dell’s number seems to suggest that this is real, though, which has rubbed fans a different way.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need me to outline why the Sabres should retire Miller’s number, and why so many fans are disappointed, disgruntled and/or outraged at the idea of another goaltender, let alone Aaron Dell, wearing #30.
But just in case you need a refresher..... to this day, Miller remains the Sabres’ franchise leader in goaltender games played (540), minutes played (31,661), career wins (284) and most wins in a season (41, 2009-10). He was an NHL All-Star in 2007 and won the Vezina Trophy and NHL Foundation Award in 2010.
The last time the Sabres retired a jersey number and put a new player in the team’s Hall of Fame was 2014-2015, with Dominik Hasek. After Hasek, Miller is almost certainly the goaltender you think of when talking about the Sabres; his mark on the team - and the community - is still felt to this day, and it just makes too much sense not to honor him in this way.
Miller is a significant piece of Sabres history, and the franchise should honor his legacy by retiring his jersey number and inducting him into the team’s Hall of Fame. In my mind, there’s no doubt it will happen eventually. The question now, it seems, is not if they’ll do it - but when, and respectfully, hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.