Sunday, February 10, 2008

Greg Millen

Greg Millen was the 102nd overall draft pick of the 1977 Entry Draft. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was returned to junior hockey for the 1977-78 season. He ended up playing with the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds which featured a 16 year old phenom named Wayne Gretzky.

Millen had a much better Penguins training camp in 1978. With veteran goalie Dunc Wilson retiring in the summer, a position opened up for one of the Pens young goaltenders. Millen beat out Gord Laxton for the back up spot. Millen did well, sporting a 14-11-1 record with 2 shutouts and a 3.37 GAA.

Millen's status in Pittsburgh quickly grew. The next season he gradually overtook the starting goalie role, playing in 44 games (18-18-7) and by 1980-81 was without question the Pens go-to guy. He played in 63 contests for a less than great team. He went 25-27-10 with an inflated 4.16 GAA.

The summer of 1981 was an interesting one for Millen. The Pens dragged their feet on resigning Millen. A free agent subject to compensation, Millen reached a deal with the Hartford Whalers and wanted to use it as leverage with the Pens. However the Pens never answered Millen as GM Baz Bastien was on a golfing vacation. Assuming that the Pens weren't interested, Millen signed with the Whalers, even though he really would have liked to have stayed in Pittsburgh. Baz Bastien was surprised by the events. The Pens got Kevin McClelland and Pat Boutette for the Whalers signing of Millen.

Millen served the Whalers well as their #1 goalie for the next 4 years. He was the Whalers workhorse, even leading all goalies in games played in 1982-83. Unfortunately for Greg, the Whalers weren't the strongest team during the early 80s, and his stats suffered for it. He lost a lot more games than he won, but played admirably and always kept an upbeat attitude.

Greg was traded to St. Louis on February 21, 1985. Packaged with Mark Johnson, Millen was traded for Mike Liut and Jorgen Petterson. Liut was one of the better goalies in the league but the Blues were under some financial hardship at the time and traded Liut away. Millen had the unenviable task of replacing Liut while playing with a team that was stripping down to trim the budget.

Millen and the Blues struggled for quite a while in St. Louis, but by 1988-89 he resurfaced as a strong goaltender once again. He led the league in shutouts with 6, including 3 in a row. He finished the year with a 22-20-7 record and a 3.38 GAA.

Millen played well in 1989-90 but found himself out of the picture just before Christmas 1989. With a young Curtis Joseph ready to take over the role of starter from Millen, the Blues traded Millen to Quebec who were in desperate need of a veteran goalie.

Millen originally refused to report to the Nordiques. The St. Louis Blues had made Millen some promises but backed out of them by trading him, leaving Millen dejected.

Millen did report, and enjoyed his time in Quebec. "They treated me really well" he said. "Sometimes I think they are too good to their players. They try to make up for the fact that a lot of people don't want to be there."

Even though Millen was happy personally, he was unhappy professionally.

"It wasn't working. I wanted to finish my career with a chance to win a Stanley Cup and there was no chance there."

Having said that, Millen asked for a trade and got it on March 5, 1990. Packaged with Nordiques legend Michel Goulet and a draft pick to Chicago for Mario Doyon, Everett Sanipass and Dan Vincelette.

Millen enjoyed finishing the season with the Blackhawks. Playing under Mike Keenan, who Millen described as "a totally new experience," Millen backstopped the Hawks into the playoffs. The Hawks were considered to be a good contender for the Cup, which of course is exactly what Millen had desired. However the Hawks ran into Mark Messier and the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the playoffs, and Millen and the Hawks season was over.

1990-91 proved to be the weirdest for Millen. Eddie Belfour had arrived as the Hawks number one goalie and Keenan's favorite netminder. However to everyone's surprise Keenan brought in Jacques Cloutier to back Belfour up. Millen appeared in only 3 games all year, and sat in the press box otherwise. Millen had quickly fallen out of favor with Iron Mike.

Millen became New York Rangers property in the summer of 1991 but moved him to Detroit before he finished his minor league conditioning stint. He played in 10 games for the Wings before retiring at season's end.

Millen posted a 215-284-89 in 604 contests. He posted 17 career shutouts and a career 3.87 GAA. In the playoffs he went 27-29 with a 3.42 GAA.

Millen went on to become a highly respected hockey broadcaster, most notably with Hockey Night In Canada.


Anonymous,  March 2, 2010 at 9:27 AM  

Greg started out playing on some really bad teams with Pittsburg, then Hartford. I always felt his best years were with the least when I saw him play the Blackhawks here in Chicago. When we got him, I was thinking how great it was going to be with him in there, but he just never got in that zone like he did in St Louis, and Keenan did indeed lose faith in him. I think he does a great job on CBC

bdh March 17, 2012 at 4:53 AM  

"great job" are you kidding? maybe he was a decent goalie at times, and maybe hes a great guy...but you are the first person i have ever heard of that liked greg millen the broadcaster...hes aweful.

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