Miller trade tough one to figure out

It had all the ingredients of a Disney sports script, but reality set in before the happy ending could ever be realized.
It once looked like Fort Frances native Tyler Miller would be suiting up for his hometown team—gunning to win a league title on home ice in his final year of junior eligibility as a member of the Fort Frances Jr. Sabres.
But the business of hockey reared its ugly head before the storybook script ever could be written.
The Sabres weren’t capable of matching the big-market offer from the Thunder Bay Bearcats—and Miller now will only be coming to town in a rival team’s uniform.
It’s an unfortunate reality of hockey at any level, and simply put, the Bearcats had more resources (some would say deeper pockets) to lure Miller to their squad.
In fairness to Port Hope Predators GM Tim Clayden, he was looking out for what was best for his hockey club—and the money and assets acquired from the Bearcats will allow him to build his team up for a playoff run despite losing their leading scorer.
He seemed to be giving the Sabres the first crack at getting Miller, but ultimately the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement.
Miller’s aunt, Lisa George, was kind of labelled as the scapegoat for the trade to the Bearcats, but George said she just wanted what was best for her nephew—and that meant a trade out of Port Hope first and foremost.
“He actually first requested a trade in September, 2007 and was told then that if he played the rest of the year, [that] they would trade him wherever he wanted to go this year,” George said. “The Sabres’ inaugural year last year was a big draw for Tyler, and many people were asking if he was going to play here.
“His request this season was to get a chance to play for the Dudley Hewitt Cup in his last year because he’s never won a championship like that before, and so a trade to a team in the SIJHL is what he wanted.
“He was also told he couldn’t request only one team, that in doing that it wasn’t fair to the Port Hope Predators,” she recalled.
George stressed she did not contact the Bearcats directly, and that the Bearcats reached out to Miller’s family only after Clayden gave them permission to do so.
“No team can contact a player or their family until the general manager gives permission,” she explained.
Despite the e-mails and texts between Clayden and Miller suggesting third-party contact with the Bearcats, George said she did not e-mail or text anyone.
“If Tim Clayden could have charged any team with tampering, he very well would have, as he was charged with tampering last year, costing the team a $5,000 fine and a year suspension from his management duties,” George noted.
The Northumberland News originally reported the charge stemmed from a series of trades in January, 2007 that sent Cobourg Cougars’ defenceman Tyler Turcotte to the Predators by way of two other teams. Clayden launched an appeal afterwards and had his suspension shortened, resuming his management duties in November, 2007.
“The appeal decision was reasonable. I crossed the line regarding the league’s right of return rule. In hindsight, we should never have allowed [Mr. Turcotte] on our practice ice before securing his right of return from the Cobourg Cougars,” Clayden told the Northumberland News at the time.
“The trade process was done properly and within the rules. We misjudged the right of return rule,” he added. “I like to think that I have learned a valuable lesson and that our own management team in Port Hope has become better for this experience.”
George said her name was brought into the Miller trade talk because she sent a letter to OPJHL commissioner Bob Hooper, which discussed some allegedly unethical communication between Clayden to Miller over the course of a few days after the trade was requested again in November.
“It was obvious that Clayden wasn’t too happy about [the trade request], and unfortunately, felt it was important to bring my name into the trade talks,” George said. “Not once has anyone from the Port Hope Predators organization or the Fort Frances Sabres contacted Miller’s family since his trade request.
“We didn’t even know if they gave permission to the Sabres to talk to Tyler.”
After trade talks dragged on past three weeks, Miller offered the Predators an ultimatum: trade or not, he had a flight booked and was to fly home a few days after his final OPJHL game on Nov. 30.
“Fourteen months he’s been asking for a trade, and come November [this year], he wanted to be traded and he felt he had to give the general manager an ultimatum,” George explained. “Trade him now, when the team can actually get something for him, or he would not continue playing where he was.”
George said even if the Fort Frances Times had contacted her in the previous weeks, she would not have explained anything until after Miller was safely traded to any team for fear Clayden might respond by telling Miller to sit on the sidelines the rest of the season.
This reporter regrettably should have sought her comment sooner in the proceedings, as well.
“Most kids in junior hockey just want to play the game because they love it and they want to play as long as they can,” George added. “People shouldn’t be so quick to judge without hearing both sides of any story. It probably would have been easier for our family if he played here in Fort Frances, but wherever Tyler is playing, and is happy, is what it is all about.

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