How do professional hockey players spend the off-season?
While much of the summer is spent training for the following hockey season, players typically take some time to themselves for at least the first few weeks of the off-season. Players head home to spend time with family or they travel to a sunny locale for a vacation. The point is to spend some time relaxing and detoxing from the previous season before launching into preparations for the next one.
It's unusual for a professional hockey player to spend their precious off-season time playing a completely different sport at an elite level but that's what J.T. Miller is attempting to do.
According to a report from the United States Golf Association (USGA), Miller is competing in local qualifying for the U.S. Open — the national championship of golf in the United States. While the U.S. Open is on the PGA Tour, it is, as the name applies, open to any professional golfer or to amateur golfers with a handicap below 1.4.
A Golf Digest report from 2020 said that Miller's handicap at the time was 1.5, landing him in their top 100 ranking of golfing athletes — at least, the non-professional golfer athletes. Evidently, he's shaved a few strokes off that 1.5 handicap over the last few years to make the grade for U.S. Open qualifying.
Miller will be attempting to qualify at The Club at Nevillewood in Presto, Pennsylvania, which features a course designed by Jack Nicklaus. The local qualifiers will take place on May 15 at The Club and will feature 78 golfers competing for just four qualifying spots.
If Miller makes the cut, he'll move on to the final qualifying running between May 16 and June 5. The U.S. Open itself runs from June 15 to 18 at the North Course of Los Angeles Country Club in Los Angeles, California. If he manages to beat the odds and actually qualifies, you have to wonder if it will put a hitch in his hockey training.
At the Canucks' Jake Milford charity golf tournament, nearly all of the Canucks said that Miller was the best golfer except for Thatcher Demko, who tongue-in-cheek named him the worst, and Nils Höglander, who was biased towards his fellow Swede, Elias Pettersson.
@canucks Best and worst golfer? Let the boys tell you 🏌️♂️⛳️ #NHL #Canucks ♬ original sound - Canucks
Miller isn't the first Canuck to be a high-level golfer. Their very first draft pick, Dale Tallon, was a Canadian junior golf champion. He had scholarship offers to Ohio State University and New Mexico University, which he used as leverage when negotiating his first contract, saying that if he didn't like the money, he'd become a professional golfer instead.
Tallon ultimately stuck with hockey but played golf on the Canadian Tour during the off-season. He never played in the U.S. Open but qualified for the U.S. Senior Open once he left the ice for NHL front offices.