Being drafted in the first round, third overall, of the 1996 OHL Priority Selection was both a testament to Norm Milley‘s substantial talent and his value to the Sudbury Wolves.
Moving to Sudbury from Toronto to play for the Wolves was the best thing that Milley could have experienced both for his development as a hockey player, but also as a person.
“I found out quickly that people from Sudbury were friendlier than those from the big city,” said Milley. “My parents and family are from Newfoundland and we used to go there every summer. I’ve always liked the laid-back life more than city life, so I was excited to get out of Toronto.”
After scoring 63 goals and 73 assists in 124 games over the course of his first two seasons in the OHL, Milley, a right-winger, was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round in the spring of 1998.
He played virtually his entire sophomore season with the Wolves while wearing a shoulder harness that was used to stop his shoulder from popping out. Surgery was performed during the off-season to correct the problem.
During his third season in Sudbury, Milley played on a line with Mike Fisher and Taylor Pyatt.
“We were all sound players,” Milley said. “Fisher was great defensively, but could also put the puck in the net. Pyatt was a rugged winger who got the loose pucks and battled along the boards. I liked to work down low and go to the net.
“We fed off each other,” continued Milley, who teamed up with Pyatt and Jason Jaspers in his final OHL campaign. “We had a little bit of everything on that line.”
Years after graduating from the OHL, Milley had nothing but fond memories of his days in Sudbury.
“Win or lose, they were always diehard fans,” he offered. “As long as you battled hard during the game, the Sudbury fans could deal with a loss.”
Milley was honoured before his last regular season home game in Sudbury to celebrate holding the franchise record for most goals scored. He had 167 during his four seasons, two more than Wolves great Mike Foligno.
“I loved Sudbury,” said Milley. “Looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted to play in any other city. The fans are great and the Burgess family (team owners) are second to none in the business. I met some life-long friends and other great people while playing with the Wolves.
“My wife is from Sudbury too and we go back to a house that we have just north of the city after every season.”
Milley went on to play a total of 17 pro seasons, getting into 29 career NHL contests between the Sabres and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Upon retiring from a nine-year playing career in Europe, Milley joined Andre Tourigny’s bench as an assistant coach with the Ottawa 67’s.
Written by Aaron Bell