NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on Saturday the Boston Bruins didn’t consult with the league before signing Mitchell Miller and that he would “need to see a whole bunch of stuff” going forward.
Bettman’s comments came a day after the Bruins announced they had signed Miller, a potential defenseman, to an entry-level contract. Miller was a fourth-round pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020 until his draft rights were dropped after an article was published about how he and another classmate were convicted of assaulting and bullying a black classmate with an intellectual disability.
The report revealed how Miller, now 20, and another college classmate were convicted in juvenile court in 2016 of racially abusing and bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers. In the report, Meyer-Crothers’ mother alleged that Miller began abusing her son in second grade and repeatedly used racial slurs.
Bettman said what he had heard anecdotally and understood through the media about what Miller had done was “reprehensible, unacceptable.” He said the Bruins did not consult with the league, but he has since spoken with team president Cam Neely.
“He’s not coming to the NHL, he’s not eligible right now to come to the NHL,” Bettman said. “I can’t tell you that he’ll ever be eligible to go to the NHL. If in fact at some point they think they want him to play in the NHL – and I’m not sure ‘they’re close to that point – we’re going to have to clear that and his eligibility and that will be based on all the information we get first hand at that time.”
Bettman said the Bruins were free to sign Miller to play elsewhere, a reference to Miller being sent to play for the Bruins’ AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. But then added that “no one should think at this point that he is or could be NHL eligible and the Bruins understand that now.”
Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, forward Nick Foligno and coach Jim Montgomery discussed the situation with Miller after morning practice in Toronto ahead of their game against the Maple Leafs.
“The culture we’ve built here is against that kind of behavior,” Bergeron told reporters. “We’re a team built with character and people with character. What he’s done is unacceptable, and we don’t support him. In this dressing room, we’re all about inclusion, diversity, respect. This are key words and core values that we have.
“We expect the guys who wear this jersey to be people of character with integrity and respect. Hopefully there will be growth and change.”
Bergeron said if Miller was the same person as the 14-year-old who bullied Meyer-Crothers, “he wouldn’t be accepted, sought out and welcomed.” He said the Bruins’ culture won’t change and that change “comes with the individual.”
Foligno said it was “a tough thing” for the team to hear after learning the Bruins had signed Miller.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” Foligno said. “I don’t think any guys were too happy because we’re proud to say this is a band that cares a lot about ourselves and how we behave and how we treat people.”
Montgomery, who is in his first season with the team, said he does not know Miller but added that what he did was “wrongdoing” and that it is up to Miller to show everyone the world that he is doing the right things in the future.
ESPN’s Kristen Shilton contributed to this report