High-scoring centreman Alfie Miller was one of the finest home-grown players to come out of the hockey hotbed of north-east England, playing his whole career with Whitley Warriors and representing Great Britain in four World Championships.
He took up the sport at the age of 12 in the rink at Whitley Bay and his first organised games were during the intervals of the senior encounters. In his first season with the Warriors in 1969-70 he won the Northern League’s Montford Trophy as Rookie of the Year, scoring 16 points (eight goals) in 20 games.
Over the next few campaigns his playmaking was a key to the Warriors’ two league titles and earned him the soubriquet ‘Buzz’. He topped the Autumn Cup points list in 1976-77 and took the league scoring crown in the next two seasons. After being voted on to a string of All-Star teams, he was named the league’s Player of the Year in 1980-81.
When the Northern League competitions ceased in 1981-82, he was ranked in fifth place on the all-time scoring list with 779 points (373 goals) in 321 games. Skating on into the three-import, Heineken-sponsored British League with his skills undiminished, he registered his 1,000th point in all official games on 13 December 1984. For one season in 1983-84 he added the coaching task.
When the time came to call it a day, Alfie chose his moment well, captaining the team to the semi-final of the Heineken British Championships in 1988 at Wembley Arena. The British Ice Hockey Association were so impressed with his athleticism, good sportsmanship and consistently high standard of play that they presented him with a silver salver, a rare honour from the governing body.
But he was only 34 and missed the game so badly that he made a comeback in 1990-91, playing two more seasons and helping Whitley to win their way to another Wembley semi-final. Over his 21 seasons, his unofficial career tally (two seasons in the 1970s have gone missing) stands at 540 goals in 584 games and a total of 1,266 points. His penalty minute record of 198 is so low that he was dubbed The Gent.
Miller made his England debut against Scotland at the age of 16 and played many times against the old enemy. He was capped 23 times by Great Britain in four World C Pool Championships between 1976 and 1981. Never once troubling the penalty box attendant, he helped GB to win two Fair Play Trophies.
Though standing only 5ft 6in, he made up for this with swift skating, soft hands and sound hockey sense. Fellow Hall of Famer and Warriors’ long-time coach Terry Matthews described his former captain as “the thinker on the team” and appointed him to be his assistant on GB for the World Pool D tournament in Belgium in March 1989.
Alfred Miller, director of a car dealership in Ashington, Northumberland, was born in nearby Blyth on 13 April 1954. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989 and was one of the first inductees into the North-East Wall of Fame in 1998.