Miller's home for the holidays

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

Christmas, it's often been said, is a time for family. A special season to be shared and cherished with loved ones.

For Gord Miller and the rest of the TSN crew covering the world junior hockey championship each year, it's been a rather foreign thought.

No wonder, then, that Miller is perhaps cherishing the 2006 tournament -- perhaps his favourite event to cover -- more than ever. Not only is Vancouver caught up in the excitement of the world juniors the way only a Canadian city can, but Miller has his family along for the ride.

Miller's wife, Sarah, and one-year-old daughter, Blair Margaret, will be with him on the B.C. coast for the entire tournament. They'll have Christmas dinner at Sarah's father's home.

In other words, the kind of Christmas many of us probably take for granted at some point.

"I'm not ever going to complain about going to one of the world's great hockey events," Miller said shortly after arriving in Vancouver. "Lots of other people have to work at Christmas ... firefighters, the police ... and I happen to work every year at Christmas, too.

"But whenever you can have your family with you, it's great."

TOUGH ROAD TRIP

Last year's Christmas away from home might have been Miller's toughest of them all. Blair was born Dec. 1, 2004, and Miller left two weeks later for the orientation camp in Winnipeg. Then it was off to the tourney in Grand Forks, N.D., while Sarah minded the newborn at home.

"It was difficult. There's no other way to look at it," said Miller. "But it's my job, and this job affords me a lot of things I otherwise wouldn't have. So you have to make sacrifices."

Sarah helped out by e-mailing Miller photos of their daughter every day. Now she gets to be a part of the tournament herself and, Miller said, "she's excited about it."

Then again, hockey has long been a part of Sarah's life, too. She formerly worked in corporate marketing for the NHL (she and Miller first met outside of hockey, he said), watches NHL games regularly and loves the world juniors, too.

"She's been to the world juniors before," said Miller. "I remember once she told Jason Spezza to make sure he kept his visor on when he went to the NHL."

Of course, this is a country that has been hooked on the world juniors for years. Six of the 10 most-watched programs in TSN history are world junior games, topped by the 2003 (3.5 million) and 2005 (3.2 million) gold-medal games.

In all, 13 world junior games have attracted more than a million viewers.

Hard to believe there was a time when tournament organizers carefully scheduled their games to avoid competition with U.S. college bowl games.

Sure, the NHL lockout drove ratings through the roof a year ago. But that kind of help isn't necessary anymore.

"This tournament stands out and stands on its own," said Miller. "You no longer have to worry what it's up against ... now, I don't think anything can beat it.

"Everyone knows when it's on. It's become a tradition."

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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