Will the Belleville Bulls get a new arena if current play-by-play man Jack Miller is elected mayor of the city in November? The answer just might surprise you.
One of the most popular and recognizable play-by-play men in the Ontario League may just turn in his microphone for a gavel in the not-too-distant future. Jack Miller, who has been the radio play-by-play voice of the Belleville Bulls since they came into the league in 1981, said he is considering running for mayor of Belleville next November.
Miller was first elected to city council in 2006 and has served in that role ever since then. The incumbent mayor is running for federal office and all other members of city council have pledged they will not run against him if he decided to run. Should Miller run and win, the OHL will be losing a booming voice and respected announcer, and one of its longest-serving broadcasters.
Along with doing play-by-play of the Bulls, Miller was also the voice of the OHL’s Game of the Week in the 1980s, has called junior hockey for Rogers Sportsnet and is the radio analyst for The FAN and other stations across Canada for the World Junior Championship.
Miller earns marks for integrity in his dealings when it comes to the Bulls and their pursuit of an upgraded or new arena in Belleville. He acknowledges the Yardman Arena, which was built in 1979, is antiquated and in need of an upgrade, saying it has never met OHL standards for seating, has narrow corridors and isn’t particularly accessible. “And if you have to go to the can during an intermission, good luck with that,” he said. But despite the fact Miller is closely associated with – but not employed by – the Bulls, he said the rink is just one of many infrastructure projects that need to be addressed.
Miller pointed out that the police station, which is located in an old church, and the fire hall are in the process of being replaced, tying up a lot of infrastructure money. You might expect the voice of a junior hockey team to be rushing to support a brand new arena for the team he covers, but Miller has not done that. He would instead like to upgrade the arena once the other infrastructure issues are addressed.
“We committed to (infrastructure),” Miller said. “We prioritized everything that needed to be done and it’s significant and we’re hundreds of millions of dollars behind. I campaigned on addressing the infrastructure issues.”
There have been major upgrades to the Quinte Sports Centre, where Yardman Arena is located, with two new arenas, three swimming pools, a gym and an indoor track. The only problem is that doesn’t directly help the Bulls, who need more seats and a more comfortable viewing venue for their fans.
Bulls owner Gord Simmonds signed a new lease with the city a year ago for two years and two one-year options that would take it through 2017. Simmonds has said that ultimately the rink either needs to be modernized or replaced, but hasn’t strong-armed the city by making threats to move the team.
If Jack Miller is the next mayor of Belleville, he’ll have a significant say in what will happen, whether the Bulls get what they need and whether they remain in Belleville in the long-term. As it stands now, he abstains on any votes involving the Bulls or Yardman Arena, but if he runs and is elected, he’ll leave broadcasting to become a full-time politician.
“I can’t advocate for a new facility,” Miller said. “To be honest with you, we can’t afford a new facility with everything we’ve taken on. We’ve taken on a lot over the past seven years out of necessity. But I can see where if we’re going to maintain an OHL team here, something has got to happen with the existing facility.”
Here's a video of Miller with Andrew Shaw, a Belleville native who took the Stanley Cup back to his hometown this past summer.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. To read more from Ken and THN’s other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.