Drew Miller joked about wanting to be a pro bass fisherman while growing up.
In reality, his sights were set only a professional hockey career. He achieved that goal, playing 10 seasons in the NHL, the final eight with the Detroit Red Wings.
But after retiring from the game at age 34, he needed to find something to do for the rest of his life.
While many players remain in the game in some capacity, Miller opted for the insurance industry.
“Life after hockey, you’re looking at ways to be successful and I always enjoyed the relationships I had with people and trying to help people,” Miller said. “I think that’s the name of the game in insurance. It’s kind of grown into something I really enjoy on a day to day basis.”
After wrapping up his playing career in 2018 following one season in Sweden, Miller started working with an insurance agency in East Lansing. He joined the Korotkin Insurance Group (KIG), a Southfield-based company founded in 1913, last month.
Miller enjoyed interacting with fans at various team community events when he played and continues doing so in retirement. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was among several former Red Wings who provided pre-game and in-game commentary on the Jumbotron at Little Caesars Arena and took part in suite-holder events.
Those communications skills are beneficial in his new line of work.
“When it comes to insurance, someone’s looking for a professional they can trust, that knows they have their best interest,” Miller said. “I think maybe being a Red Wing gives me more credibility. People feel like they know me a little bit more.
“From my side, I enjoy those interactions with people and I’m in a position to help them protect their assets. I think that’s a huge thing for people’s lives, to make sure everything they’ve worked so hard for is protected in a way that is actually coverage that they need.”
KIG covers all parts of the insurance spectrum. Miller is licensed only in property and casualty but is working toward adding life and health.
Miller majored in human resources at Michigan State but turned pro after three years.
“My mindset was I want to be a professional hockey player, I’m going to do what I can to get to that point,” Miller said. “Somewhere along the line you start to understand, ‘I got to prepare for life after hockey.’ I never set out for a specific job, but I knew that there’s certain things I can kind of take into any job — my mentality of hard work and doing what it takes to be successful in hockey and transitioning that into the business side was the approach I took into whatever I was going to do after.”
Miller considered staying in hockey as a coach, but the time commitment and potential travel, keeping him away too long from his family, wife Colleen and two daughters, ages 1 and 4, did not appeal to him.
He still gets his hockey fix playing occasional pick-up games, pre-pandemic, in addition to being on the Red Wings alumni team, where his linemates were Red Berenson and Dennis Hextall.
“It’s based around charity and it’s a lot of fun,” Miller said. “For me, it’s getting to play on a team with a lot of guys I watched growing up. It’s amazing that Red is 80 and Dennis is (77) and they’re still getting up and down the ice and having fun. That’s encouraging for me to be around. I know I can enjoy hockey for a long time still. Hopefully, my body holds up. I enjoy being around the team, being around Detroit. That was one of the big reasons I came to an agency around Detroit, because this is where I want to be.”
Miller was drafted in the sixth round by Anaheim in 2003 and played on the Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup-winning team. The Red Wings claimed him off waivers from Tampa Bay in 2009 and he went on to play 504 regular season and 44 playoff games for Detroit as a checking-line winger.
“Got lucky, but also feel I came in and proved myself in Detroit,” Miller said. “Pretty much every training camp I was a bubble player, someone who had to prove himself on a daily basis. I think as hard as that may have been, I’m able to draw on those experiences and be a little bit calm under pressure, understand that some of things I’ve had to go through in hockey are going to be beneficial for me in insurance and life in general.”
He played only 14 games with Tampa Bay at the start of the 2009-10 season but was happy to see the Lightning win the Stanley Cup on Monday, having played briefly with Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Lightning coach Jon Cooper was Miller’s youth coach in Lansing when he was 16.
“Playoff hockey is the best,” Miller said. “We had so many years in the playoffs and it was fun.”