Geoff Millard (left) shows off his new UB uniform with three members of the Bulls.
UB teamed up with a former alum to add to a burgeoning jersey collection while honoring our nation's veterans.
Geoff Millard has an impressive collection of hockey jerseys. Yet his mission to obtain a sweater from his alma mater turned into an experience he didn’t expect to encounter.
Millard, a University at Buffalo graduate and Army Veteran serves as the Director of Special Projects at Friendship Place in Washington DC. Friendship Place works with people who are experiencing homelessness and Millard’s duties focus specifically on homeless veterans. However, Millard lets his personality show through on a daily basis by wearing a different jersey from his collection to work.
“Key to working with people is about being yourself,” Millard said. “Whether that is with homeless people or something else. If you’re trying to be something that you’re not it’s going to show. Because I am who I am on the surface it makes it easier to connect with individuals.”
Part of that individuality is proudly displaying a jersey collection that has been growing since his youth in Buffalo. Millard’s collection spans across the NHL, AHL, WHA and a number of junior hockey organizations. Many of the uniforms span across a number of decades.
Of all of his uniforms, Millard notes that either his Gordie Howe Houston Aeros or Bobby Orr Oshawa General jerseys are his two prized possessions. However, he did not have a uniform from his alma mater and it was something he worked on changing this winter.
Upon contacting Sal Valvo and UB, a simple exchange of goods evolved into a special event for both Millard and the Bulls.
“Geoff reached out to us a couple months ago saying that he is a UB alum and that he collects hockey jerseys and that he was also an Iraq Veteran who was injured in the line of duty,” Valvo said. “We were already thinking of doing a veterans game and that made sense for us to make the event for homeless vets.”
So, with Millard slated to come into town around the holidays, Valvo put the wheels in motion to not only present the alum with his own UB uniform, but to also honor military veterans as a whole on the first day of the Blizzard in Buffalo tournament.
The proceeds from the game – easily the largest crowd of the Blizzard tournament – went to support homeless veterans in Western New York. Millard not only walked away from the game on Friday with a new jersey for his collection, but he was also at the center of a pregame ceremony with a color guard and ceremonial puck drop.
“It was interesting. My philosophy on life is to go for the ride and hopefully you get a good story out of it,” Millard said.
“It was a nice event to support homeless vets where he got to drop the puck and get a jersey,” Valvo said. “It was nice to honor him and all of our veterans while raising money for a great charity.”
After dispatching Slippery Rock, UB’s players were able to enjoy a meet and greet with Millard and other veterans who had attended the game. As Valvo noted, that was one of the best parts of the evening for him, his team and the vets – many of whom plan on returning for future UB games.
Millard is also planning on catching his fair share of UB games on future return trips to the Nickel City or when the Bulls wander south.
“It was a really great game. I really enjoy watching lower levels of hockey like at the junior or collegiate level,” Millard said. “Mainly because players are okay to make mistakes. there is less perfection at a lower level and you get to see a really great game because the players are evolving and learning at that level. Watching players playing at that type of developmental level makes it a fun game to watch.”
There was one drawback that Millard encountered; UB rolled out a new set of uniforms for this season that are different than the sweaters he had become accustomed to tracking with his alma mater over the internet.
“As I was watching the game I started thinking ‘how do I get one of those?’ because I saw the new jerseys and I really liked those too,” he joked.
Millard will certainly have plenty of opportunities to add one of UB’s newest jerseys to his current collection. Not only does he plan on taking in more games in the future, UB has loose plans in place to make their Military Appreciation Night an annual event.
In the meantime he will be able to proudly sport his one-of-a-kind UB sweater when contributing with the homeless veterans that he works with on a daily basis.