Op-Ed: Forsyth Resident Brad Miller

Bring the NHL to Forsyth County

Dear FCN, 

I wanted to respond to two recent opinion editorials I read in Forsyth County News in opposition to The Gathering at South Forsyth’s proposed development off Union Hill Road and Ronald Regan Blvd.

As a Forsyth County resident for 31 years and a Jamestown resident for the past decade, I was thrilled to hear about the proposed development, particularly the return of a professional hockey team in the community. As a kid growing up in Forsyth County, my journey in the world of hockey began when there was only one ice rink in all of Georgia. Later, I witnessed the opening of The Cooler Ice facility, where I spent many years playing youth hockey. While I grew up as many kids do in Forsyth County, my life was anything but normal.

I am one of the few people in the world who can say I made my living as a professional athlete. And among the long list of accomplishments for which I am proud, right at the top of the list is being the first kid from Georgia to…

  • Leave to play Prep School Hockey (Shattuck St. Mary’s, Minnesota) – 3 years
  • Get drafted and play in the USHL (Green Bay) – 1 year
  • Receive a full Division I Hockey Scholarship (University of North Dakota) – 4 years
  • Play professional hockey (USA and Germany) – 12 years
  • Coach professional hockey (Germany) – 2 years

I remember attending the Atlanta Thrashers’ home opener at Phillips Arena (now State Farm Arena) with my family. Though the Thrashers lost to the New Jersey Devils, that night remains a cherished memory for me. My house, which sits directly across from The Gathering at South Forsyth site, is still home to those treasured tickets, framed as a reminder of that momentous occasion. So, I was excited when the possibility of the NHL coming back was announced. And of all places for the project to be? Right across the street from my house!

Op-eds allow readers to see varying views on the same topic, and with that said, of course a former hockey player wants a hockey team. While that is 100% true, I am not going to pretend that I am qualified to discuss the project’s politics or the impact that added tax revenue will have on the area. That is for industry experts to examine and discuss. 

The effort to bring an NHL team back to Georgia is deeply personal for me and many others. Hockey is more than just a sport; it is a community, a passion, and a source of pride for countless individuals. Based on my experience, there is nothing better than a community coming together in support of a team. It bonds people from all walks of life together for a common cause. This is our chance to create that right here at home.

Over the course of my career, I was fortunate enough to visit kids in local community hospitals where I played, read to children at local schools and see the huge smiles on kids’ faces when they donned a pair of ice skates and stepped onto the ice for the very first time to learn how to skate and play. I saw the impact, firsthand, that having a team in the community had on families. Parents and kids alike came up to the players to thank us for being a part of the community and tell us how much it meant to them to bond with their children in an ever-increasing time of people being glued to their smartphones. As an athlete, it’s an amazing feeling to have that kind of positive impact on people.

One of the most memorable moments of my career occurred during my first year in Germany. It was game 7 of the Championship final. It was overtime and I was lucky enough to score the most beautiful goal I’ve ever scored. A week later, a man approached me in the street to congratulate me on winning the Championship. As he started crying, he looked me in the eye and said in his broken English, “I have been waiting 50 years for us to win a Championship and thanks to you, we did it. I would go to the games with my dad when I was young all the way up until last year when he passed away. He would be so happy right now and the people of this city will never forget what you and the team have done here. It is maybe crazy, but I feel like I can finally say goodbye to my dad.”

There is no doubt this project has a lot of moving parts and varying opinions. But the one thing that is a guarantee… bringing an NHL hockey team back to Georgia will not only thrill the local community but also the entire state. The resilience, talent and passion of our hockey community make it clear that Georgia is ready for this next chapter in its hockey story. Let’s work together to bring NHL hockey back home. And you never know how it might impact you!

Brad Miller

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