The Boston Bruins have been waylaid by their fan base and the hockey public in general for signing 20-year-old defenseman Mitchell Miller this week despite his reprehensible past targeting and bullying a disabled black classmate while still a schoolboy, and now the NHL is getting in line to lay the smack down on the Black and Gold as well.
Mitchell was convicted in juvenile court of bullying and abusing a classmate when he was 14-years old. Miller, 20, was found guilty of accusations that, starting in second grade, he and a classmate repeatedly bullied their disabled classmate Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, including using repeated racial slurs and physically demeaning him.
According to reports, Mitchell Miller never apologized to Meyer-Crothers until recent weeks via an Instagram message as he was nearing signing an entry-level contract with a handful of NHL teams in the running for his services.
Despite the Bruins assuring they did their due diligence about a young defenseman that was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes, who then renounced the rights to him after the firestorm of criticism, it was learned on Saturday that they didn’t consult the league before the signing after not bothering to contact the family of the child bullied by Miller in the first place.
“I can’t categorically tell you this is the absolute right decision,” said Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “This is an opportunity that we’re providing for a young man who is going to work to continue to earn trust and respect, as each and every one of us do every day. My own personal judgment on this wasn’t the final say. It was just part of the equation. But having spent time with him and having a clear understanding of the direction he’d like to take his life in, I felt that if other teams were going to be willing to give him — I’m not going to speak for other teams — a chance, I think we all have to look in the mirror and say, ‘Why wouldn’t we be willing to give him a chance?’
“I’ve also come to the understanding that I don’t think forgiveness is part of this, because if that had happened to one of my own children, I can’t categorically say that I would have (forgiven). But I also would applaud somebody that if you were willing to welcome somebody back for a second chance, you’ve got to walk that walk.”
It all feels like the organization went into this without truly thinking about the ramifications at all levels for a hockey team that was cruising through the first few months of the season, and the fans were almost uniformly pissed off about it.
This letter from a diehard Boston Bruins fan to the team this morning encapsulates a lot of what I’ve heard in my mentions from angry, upset and embarrassed Bruins followers. This has hit raw nerves with a lot of people https://t.co/AAqZ8hxfXR
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) November 5, 2022
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman assured that the young prospect wouldn’t be playing in the NHL anytime soon, and would need to be cleared by the league after checking all kinds of boxes in terms of redemption, accountability and remorse for his inexcusable past actions as a teenager.
“What I understand and have heard through the media, what he did as a 14-year-old is reprehensible, unacceptable. Before the Bruins made the decision to sign him, we were not consulted. I happened to talk to (Bruins president) Cam Neely since the time he was signed. He’s not coming into the NHL,” said Bettman on Saturday to assembled media. “He’s not eligible at this point to come into the NHL. I can’t tell you that he’ll ever be eligible to come into the NHL. If at some point they think they want him to play in the NHL, and I’m not sure they’re anywhere close to that point, we’re going to have to clear him and his eligibility. It will be based on all the information that we get firsthand at the time.
“So the answer is that they were free to sign him to play somewhere else, that’s another league’s issue. But nobody should think at this point he is, or may ever be, NHL-eligible and the Boston Bruins understand that now.”
— Jesse Montano (@jessemontano_) November 5, 2022
So what would Bettman have to see in order to clear the 20-year-old Miller given his truly troubled past?
“I would need to see a whole bunch of things and understand a lot more firsthand than I do now anecdotally,” said Bettman.
This all comes a day after Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney addressed the media and admitted that he wasn’t sure at all signing Miller was the right thing to do, despite his 83 points (39 goals, 44 assists) in 60 games for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL last season that qualify him as a player with a potential NHL career in front of him.
“Personally, this has been a struggle over what is right and what is wrong, and I can’t categorically tell you that this is the absolute right decision,” said Sweeney. “This is an opportunity that we’re providing for a young man who is going to continue to work to earn trust and respect as each and every one of us do every day. My own personal judgment on this wasn’t the final say. It was just part of the equation of having spent time with him and having a clear understanding of the direction that he would like to take his life in. I felt that if other teams were willing to give him a chance … I think we all have to look in the mirror and say, ‘Why wouldn’t we be willing to give him a chance?’ I’ve also come to the understanding that I don’t think forgiveness is part of this, because if this happened to one of my own children, I can’t categorically say that I would have. But I also would applaud someone that if they’re willing to welcome someone back for a second chance. And you’ve got to walk that walk.”
Boston Bruins players were also at a bit of a loss at the entire situation as captain Patrice Bergeron told Elliotte Friedman he was “on the fence” about the situation while admitting the signing flies in the face of so many of their organizational themes.
It makes one wonder why the Boston Bruins decided to do this in the first place. It’s true that the B’s have one of the worst-ranked prospect pools in the NHL and they don’t have anybody in their system like the offensively gifted Miller on the back end, but it feels like no prospect is worth the mud that the proud Black and Gold are now being dragged through by literally everybody.