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La Jolla Athlete of the Week: Hockey player Oliver Miller chips away at his goals on the ice

La Jolla Country Day junior Oliver Miller played hockey with the San Diego Saints and now for the Anaheim Junior Ducks.
La Jolla Country Day School junior Oliver Miller played hockey for several years with the San Diego Saints and now plays for the Anaheim Junior Ducks.
(Josh Robinson)

Oliver Miller is what is known in hockey as a “puck hound.” He devotes much of his weekly schedule to the ice, cultivating a love for hockey he’s had since childhood.

The La Jolla Country Day School junior currently plays for the Anaheim Junior Ducks, a youth hockey club that has him traveling to Irvine three times a week for practices after school, along with games on weekends in various places, sometimes as far away as Canada, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Oliver, 16, joined the team this year after playing for several years with the San Diego Saints hockey club. Many of its players go on to the Junior Ducks or the Los Angeles Junior Kings.

Oliver also has played hockey in the 2019 Maccabi Games, which he said are “the Jewish Olympics.”

He said his normal position is forward, “usually playing right or left wing.”

Josh Robinson, who coaches the Saints, said Oliver was “a leading goal scorer every year,” which Robinson attributed to Oliver’s speed, vision and strong skating skills.

He’s a “fun, competitive player,” Robinson said.

He said Oliver is “not afraid to be the first one at the puck, and he loves getting the puck and making plays with it. ... He’s not afraid to get his nose dirty.”

Oliver Miller, pictured at the state amateur championships earlier this year, says "I just feel free" when playing hockey.
Oliver Miller, pictured at the California Amateur Hockey Association championships earlier this year, says “I just feel free” when playing hockey.
(Ethan Overman)

Oliver has played hockey since he was 5, encouraged by his father, Craig. “He’s from Detroit,” Oliver said of his dad. “He loved hockey as a kid, still loves hockey so much, so he really wanted to get me into it from a young age.”

Oliver said he learned to skate at the rink at the Westfield UTC mall, playing for various kids’ teams before sticking with the Saints.

“When I play, I just feel free and I don’t have to worry about any stress or anything,” he said. “It makes me feel happy.”

He enjoys the “battle” aspect of the game, which also has taught him some life lessons, he said. “It definitely teaches you how to be a teammate and a good leader, and also helps you get through tough situations. … It just teaches you that you need to work hard and you’ll get there.”

Beyond his skills on the ice, Robinson said Oliver was “one of the most popular and loved in the locker room” among his Saints teammates, who voted him captain the last few years of his tenure with them.

Oliver said it made him “feel good because ... all the kids on the team voted. It’s hard to become leader of your peers when they’re all the same age and all roughly the same skill level, so it’s really an accomplishment.”

When he’s not skating, Oliver is surfing or playing basketball or football with friends or his family.

“I definitely want to play hockey in college and play in the United States Hockey League or the North American Hockey League,” two higher-level junior leagues, Oliver said.

“My goal is … as far as I can take it,” he said. “I want to take it, because I love it.”

La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.