NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is one of the latest to speak up about the Boston Bruins decision to sign 20-year-old right-shot defenseman Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract this past week. At age-14 Miller was convicted in juvenile court of bullying and abusing a developmentally disabled classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers. Miller also repeated racial slurs and physically demeaned his African American victim.
According to reports, Miller never apologized to his victim until doing so on Instagram at a time when it appeared he may be getting some opportunities to play professional hockey. When details of the incident became widely known back in 2020, the University of North Dakota revoked an invitation for Miller to play there, not long after the Arizona Coyotes renounced their draft rights to the 2020 NHL 4th-rounder.
Miller has played two seasons in the United States Hockey League, the most prominent junior league south of Canada.
The reason for the on-ice interest from a number of teams is clear. As an USHL defenceman, Miller piled up 83 points in 60 games last season with the Tri-City Storm.
The Bruins have apparently assigned Miller to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.
In Their Own Words – NHL
“What I understand and have heard through the media, what he did as a 14-year-old is reprehensible, unacceptable,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday in Tampere, Finland, where he’s attending the Global Series games. “Before the Bruins made the decision to sign him, we were not consulted. I happened to talk to Cam Neely (Boston Bruins President) since the time he was signed. He’s not coming into the NHL. 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.”
“I can’t categorically tell you this is the absolute right decision,” said Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney on Saturday. “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 was not necessarily agreeing with it,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said after the morning skate in Toronto on Saturday. “To be honest with you, the culture that we’ve built here goes against that type of behaviour. We’re a team that’s built with character. What he did is unacceptable. We don’t stand by that.”
The American Hockey League is reviewing Miller’s eligibility.