This time of year the Alaska Aces periodically announce player signings for the approaching season, and they customarily front-load their revelations with familiar, elite returners.
But one player who was among the first three offseason signings announced in each of the three previous seasons -- All-ECHL veteran defenseman Bryan Miller -- has been conspicuously absent from a list of 13 players announced these last two months.
And he will remain so.
Miller, 29, on Wednesday confirmed he has retired after eight seasons of pro hockey, including the last five with the Aces, who he helped win the 2011 Kelly Cup.
Miller on Wednesday said he was almost certain he was going to retire after the Aces were eliminated from the Western Conference finals in early May. Nothing since changed his mind.
"I'm totally fine with it,'' Miller said. "It was one of those things at the end of every season, you say, 'OK, couple weeks off,' and then you start to get the itch.
"(But) I was kind of just ready for a change. Obviously, I love the game and it has been my life, but I was ready for a change.''
Not only is Miller hanging up his blades, but Aces coach Rob Murray said stalwart shutdown defenseman Chad Anderson, who played the last two seasons with the club, has also retired.
The departures of Miller and Anderson, 30, continue an offseason of transition for the Aces, who have won consecutive Brabham Cups as the ECHL's top team in the regular season.
Veteran linemates Brian Swanson, the club's captain, and all-time leading ECHL goal scorer Wes Goldie each announced their retirements shortly after last season ended. And winger Dan Kissel, the team's leading scorer last season, initially agreed to return to Alaska, but then decided to play next season in Norway.
Miller retires at a time his skills showed no signs of eroding. A smooth skater, he played all 72 games last season to mark his career high, and his 10-34--44 totals marked career highs in assists and points, and tied his career high in goals.
In his four full seasons with the Aces -- his first season with the club, 2007-08, was derailed by shoulder surgery -- Miller proved remarkably consistent as one of the circuit's most dangerous offensive defensemen. In those seasons, he earned point totals of 40, 39, 41 and 44.
"He cared,'' Murray said. "Good or bad, he cared about winning and losing, and he wanted to be good.''
Miller was a first-team All-ECHL pick last season and a second-team All-ECHL pick two seasons ago. He also twice helped the Aces to the Kelly Cup Finals. And his 285 regular-season games played are the second-most by an Ace since the franchise joined the ECHL in 2003-04 -- only retired center Vladimir Novak played more, with 310 games.
"It's been a great place to play and live,'' said Miller, a native of Wayne, N.J., who married over the summer and intends to remain here. "And the team's been really good. All in all, it's been a positive.''
Miller also leaves the game with his health. He has undergone surgery twice on each shoulder and for the last few seasons said another shoulder injury would warrant automatic retirement. In his last season, he played all 72 regular-season games and all 10 playoff games.
Miller said he's worked some construction this summer and is considering taking a real estate exam, but said he hasn't settled on what he will do for a living after hockey.
"Just kind of kicking tires,'' Miller said. "I have enough contacts in town. I can find work. Whether I can find a career, that's another matter.''
Anderson is familiar to Anchorage fans not just for his two seasons with the Aces, but also his four seasons at UAA. The native of Chisago City, Minn., has made Anchorage his home. He was a physical force and outstanding penalty killer who was exceptionally fit and strong.
Murray said Anderson, who joined the Aces in 2010 after playing his first three pro seasons in the American Hockey League, became a pivotal leader for the team last season.
"He kind of took ownership of the team about halfway through the season,'' Murray said. "He took it on himself and his game really picked up, not that it wasn't good before that. He was a guy you could always depend on.''
Miller, always good for a glib comment, said he's looking forward to watching his old club play at Sullivan Arena.
"I've still got a lot of friends on the team,'' he said. "It'll be nice to go have a beer and boo 'em.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Rink reigns Nearly 200 different players have suited up for the Alaska Aces in their nine ECHL seasons, and retiring defenseman Bryan Miller ranks second in club history in regular season games played in that span with 285. Former center Vladimir Novak tops the list with 310 games played. Here's the top 10: Player Games C Vladimir Novak 310 D Bryan Miller 285 C Kimbi Daniels 284 C Olivier Filion 277 D Matt Shasby 258 W Mike Scott 257 D Corbin Schmidt 231 W Joe Talbot 213 D Peter Metcalf 200 D Louis Mass 180