Mark Milley stood inside the Tampa Theater, a 90-year-old building with small velvet seats and an overhanging balcony. He smiled on the stage in front of a starry sky and a cardboard cutout of a castle, accepting his Lou Lamoriello Award. Medals filled the left side of his chest, denoting his status as the country’s Army General, a montage of red, green and blue. He’s formidable in stature with grey hair contrasting against his dark jacket line with gold rims on the sleeves and shoulders.
The award, honoring a college hockey alumnus with a distinguished professional path, was presented just before the Hobey Baker Award. Like Hobey Baker, Milley too had played college hockey at Princeton.
But after accepting his award, after posing for photos and engaging with fans, the Army General stopped to speak to a child the quarter of his size. Milley jested, telling the kid – a Minnesota native – that if he wanted to play hockey, he’d have to move to Boston.
The city on the Charles was close to where Milley himself, a Winchester, Mass., native playing prep school hockey at Belmont Hill, started. When time for college arrived, Milley remained on the East Coast and took the five-hour trip south to Princeton.
Milley had applied to different schools, but the old Ivy League college – with grey stone buildings, its campus locked in time and historic rink that paid homage to the greatest player in college hockey – enchanted Milley.
“I liked Princeton the best and felt like there was a certain chemistry there and a certain chemistry with the coach and the hockey team, so I picked Princeton,” Milley said. “It was great and I never looked back. It was wonderful.”
While he dressed in black and orange, Milley skated on the same ice with and against bogeomeths of college hockey – from the powerhouse BU teams driven by Mike Eruzione to Clarkson’s Dave Taylor.
“All that 1980 Olympic hockey that came from the East, I played against all those guys,” Milley said.
While a Tiger, Milley played with current writer and producer David E. Kelley. Kelley worked on a range of shows including The Practice, Ally McBeal and Boston Legal. In 2014, Kelley was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
“He’s done very, very well, been very successful in Hollywood,” Milley said. “He was always an extraordinarily disciplined guy, always did his homework sort of thing and as I understand it, he writes all his own scripts and works very hard and very, very disciplined. So more power to him and I’m really happy for him.”
The 1980 Princeton graduate has returned to Princeton, whether speaking at the school, attending reunions or commissioning the school’s ROTC.
“The army is a team organization. It’s very team oriented because you don’t accomplish anything in the military by yourself, whether it’s in combat or in training,” Milley said. “It’s always operating as a team, or team of teams, so the teamwork of team sports has direct applicability to service in the army. I think that’s one thing I think that you draw from my time at not only at Princeton but all the team sports I’ve played on over the years.”
Milley was named the 39th Army General of the United States on August 14, 2015. The former hockey player dedicated over the last 30 years of his life to the army, serving the country in various capacities. Milley, commanded the Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. (check this), also served in Afghanistan and commanded FORSCOM – the army’s largest command.
Both his parents served in World War II, his mother with the Navy and father with the Marines.
“The other thing from a different angle, not from athletics, but at Princeton they always emphasize critical thinking,” Milley said. “[It’s] not so much what to think, but how to think. And that’s always stayed with me as well. It’s the critical thinking skills that can be applied not only in the military, but in government, in the commercial sector, no matter what walk of life you choose to do.”