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NHL lockout gives dentists unexpected break

March 1, 2005
At the busy dental office of Drs. Irwin Miller, Donald Salomon, Joseph Esposito and Steven Svetcov in Hartsdale, New York, it is not unusual for the reception area to be abuzz with patients - even though the practice’s appointment schedule is booked some four to six weeks in advance.

Story by Duane DaPron; photos by Bob Lammers, Midmark Corporation

At the busy dental office of Drs. Irwin Miller, Donald Salomon, Joseph Esposito and Steven Svetcov in Hartsdale, New York, it is not unusual for the reception area to be abuzz with patients - even though the practice’s appointment schedule is booked some four to six weeks in advance.

But on one late spring day in 1994, there was an extraordinary number of people at the office, which is located some 20 miles north of Manhattan. On this particular day, besides the normal schedule of patients, the practice was home to one of the most revered and recognizable symbols in the sports world.

Snow falls outside the entrance of the dental office of Drs. Irwin Miller, Donald Salomon, Joseph Esposito, and Steven Svetcov. The practice is located in Hartsdale, New York, approximately 20 miles north of Manhattan.
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On display at the office this day was The Stanley Cup, presented annually to the champion of the National Hockey League. In 1994, the Cup came to rest in the hands of the New York Rangers, who edged the Vancouver Canucks in a grueling seven-game championship series. The series victory brought the Stanley Cup back to New York for the first time in 54 years.

There are two good reasons why this time-honored symbol of hockey supremacy was at the dental office.

Both Dr. Miller and Dr. Salomon played supporting roles in the Rangers’ journey to claiming the 1994 Stanley Cup, serving as the dental “team” that cared for New York’s players at all home matches during the season as well as at selected road playoff contests. In addition, the duo provided dental care at the Rangers’ training camp, which is conducted annually in Westchester County at a site that is just a short distance from the dental office.

Besides the four dentists, the Westchester County practice boasts a 17-member staff.
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In fact, Dr. Miller - who has been at the Hartsdale practice the last 42 years - served as the primary dentist for the Rangers from 1978 through 2003.

Dr. Salomon joined Dr. Miller as part of the Rangers’ dental team in 1985 when he also became a member of the practice. Dr. Esposito later became part of the hockey dental team in 2003 upon his arrival in Hartsdale.

Alhough it’s been some 10 years since the Rangers’ improbable run to claim the Stanley Cup, Dr. Miller recalls the feat as if it happened yesterday.

The primary dentist for the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers for 25 years, one wall of Dr. Miller’s office is decorated by several team photos including a picture of the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup championship squad.
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“The Stanley Cup series between Vancouver and New York was just unbelievable,” said Miller, a native New Yorker. “I’ll never forget Game 7 (played at the Rangers’ home arena in Madison Square Garden). The atmosphere that night was so intense that I actually left my seat and went into the locker room and watched the final part of the game on television. Then, after the Rangers won, I ran out onto the ice to join in the celebration.”

As members of the Rangers’ dental team in 1994, both Dr. Miller and Dr. Salomon had the opportunity to take part in the aftermath of the team’s momentous triumph. Among those distinctions were a trip to then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s house as well as participating in the Rangers’ victory parade through Times Square. In addition, the team presented each with a championship ring.

Also included in the revelry following the series was the chance for the Stanley Cup to make a surprise visit to the Westchester County practice.

“We were able to bring the Cup here for one day,” said Miller, a graduate of New York University’s dental school. “We must have had 500 people stop by the office that day.”

A rendition of a golfer and a colorful photo of tulips adorn the walls of the practice’s largest operatory. The practice has nine fully digital operatories, each featuring Midmark chairs.
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Dr. Salomon, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s dental school, recalls the Rangers’ championship season fondly, too.

“That year was more exciting than you can imagine,” he said. “There was quite an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs that season. After not having won the Cup since 1940, there was a cumulative relief after the series for so many Ranger fans who had waited such a long time for a championship.”

“While we (as team dentists) normally do not go onto the ice, we did that time,” he added about the team’s celebration after Game 7. “We were right in the thick of all the emotions and the players’ exuberance. Going through that experience really made me feel like part of the team. It solidified us as a family.”

Besides treating injured players at home matches and during training camp, Miller, Salomon and Esposito also provide dental care throughout the year for nearly all Rangers’ players and their families at the upscale Westchester County practice.

The three-level, 4,200-square-foot facility is located in a renovated house that was built in 1927. Besides the dentists, the practice boasts 17 employees and concentrates on preventive, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry.

With its age, the facility has been upgraded several times through the years. Dr. Miller estimates there have been five major remodeling projects since he joined the practice in 1962.

The last major renovation occurred a year ago. The nine-operatory practice now features custom-made Midmark units with six complete Midmark LR packages and three Knight units on the older chairs.

“I like working with the Midmark chairs,” Dr. Miller said. “But we also selected them based on their sleek, clean-looking, and high-tech appearance.”

Dr. Miller also purchased a Midmark table for the practice and has been pleased with the integration of the chair, unit and light as well as the light’s automatic On and Off switch feature.

“If I feel something is worthwhile, then it’s here in our office,” Dr. Miller said about his decision-making process in selecting equipment.

Last year’s remodeling, according to Dr. Miller, “upgraded the whole place.” Equipment installation dealer was Sullivan-Schein in Saugerties, New York. The equipment representative was Lee Goldstein, while the merchandise representative was Mitch Cutler.

Each operatory contains computer access as well as a window to view the scenic outdoors.
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While the practice is home to the routine dental care performed on the majority of Ranger team members and their families, this work is actually only a small portion of the practice’s volume.

“It’s probably less than one percent of our overall practice,” Dr. Salomon estimated.

And, considering the events surrounding the 2004-05 NHL season, it is probably just as well that the practice doesn’t rely on treating those individuals associated with the Rangers as a major source of revenue.

With negotiations over a collective bargaining agreement between owners of the league’s 30 teams and the players association at a standstill, a “lockout” of players began in mid-September and was still in effect at press time. No scheduled games for the 2004-05 season had been played at press time.

The practice’s sterilization room, which uses distilled water, is designed to mirror that of a hospital sterilization room.
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“We have had some down time, and a little less excitement by not working Rangers’ home games this year, but our practice is still very busy,” said Dr. Esposito, who has been anticipating his second full season (third year overall) on the Rangers’ dental staff in 2004-05. Like Dr. Miller, he is also a graduate of NYU’s dental school.

Dr. Miller, a former president of the NHL’s Team Dental Association, was honored for his 25 years of service when the Rangers presented him with a sterling silver hockey stick upon conclusion of the 2002-03 campaign.

Nicknamed “Miller the Driller” by those close to the team, the former teacher at NYU’s dental school recalls his yearning to become affiliated with an NHL club - particularly the hometown Rangers.

“It was 1959. I was sitting at Madison Square Garden in the $1.50 seats, way up high,” he said. “I told my wife at the time that I thought it would be fantastic to be a dentist for a professional hockey team.”

The reception areais located in what was originally the entrance to a house that was built in 1927. Through the years, the three-level, 4,200-square-foot facility has been remodeled several times.
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Little did Dr. Miller know, but it would be nearly 20 years later -1978 - before fate would provide such an opportunity. That year, the wife of former New York player Dean Talafous visited Dr. Miller.

“She had been experiencing some dental problems that I was able to solve,” he said. “My success in treating her was instrumental in opening the door for me to become involved with the Rangers.”

Dr. Miller notes that being part of a professional sports team is a lifelong dream.

“Growing up, every kid wants to be a sports great,” he said. “And if not a sports great, then you at least want to be around those stars. It’s really a ‘kid’ thing.”

Dr. Salomon, the current president of the NHL’s Team Dental Association, agrees with his fellow dentist.

“To be around a professional sports team and be on the ‘inside’ is just an unbelievable experience for me,” said Dr. Salomon, who grew up in New Jersey as a hockey fan, then played hockey competitively in college, and who continues to participate in the sport today.

“It’s really quite a thrill for me. I feel like a kid in a candy store,” he added. “To be able to get pointers from the players ... even now some 20 years later, it’s still a thrill going to the arena.”

Equipment Checklist
Autoclaves/sterilizers Pelton & Crane
Bleaching systemsZOOM
CamerasDigital Canon Rebel
Cleaners, ultrasonicBiosonic
Computer softwareDentrix
Digital X-rayDexis
Endodontic handpiecesAnthogur
Imaging systemsTrophyPan
In-office restorative systemIn-house lab tech
Intercom systemCustom
Intraoral cameraDentrix
Lab equipmentWizard
Lights, curing3M ESPE Elipar
Lights, operatingMidmark
Patient education systemCAESY
Polishers, airRed-Wing
Scalers, ultrasonicDentsply
Sharpeners, instrumentSidekick
Vacuum units, accessoriesVacStar
X-ray unitsGendex