The Long Wait

Shannon Miller set the standard for success in NCAA women's hockey and has a decorated international resume. And yet, for nearly a decade, she's been unable to secure a permanent place behind a bench. Will the misunderstood coach ever find a hockey home, or will she forever be 'radioactive?' | by Erin Brown

Shannon Miller, meditating alongside her rescue pup, Prince, in Palm Springs, California.
Shannon Miller meditating alongside her rescue pup, Prince, in Palm Springs, California. Photo by: Erin Brown

Shannon Miller is running late, hustling to Palm Springs from an earlier meeting east of Los Angeles.

But when she approaches the table at the upscale Mexican restaurant at which we've arranged to meet in late June, it is, without question, the former Canadian women's national-team coach. The short, spiked black hair with lightly silvered sideburns and trademark black outfit are dead giveaways.

Our initial handshake moves into an unsure “bro hug” before we sit down. We spark a conversation about how, in sports and journalism, we're always following someone else's schedule. We empathize about dealing with delays.

While our exchange is entirely friendly and positive, there also is a hint of skepticism. Miller's welcoming small-town roots have her leaning into this encounter, but her big-city-cop intuition keeps her guard up.

The media has not always been even-handed with Miller during her trailblazing and highly decorated career across three decades. Now, nearly five years removed from her last coaching stint, an American outsider has asked out-of-the-blue to meet after travelling cross-country.

I break the ice with a biography before explaining how her expertise, from coaching Team Canada, then in building the first NCAA women's hockey powerhouse at Minnesota-Duluth, can be of help to my work.

Outside of the subjects I seek clarity on, there is one personal question: would she still like to coach?

Miller flashes her instantly recognizable smile.