With things going so well on the ice for the Bruins, the team threw a wrench into things by making a signing that is (being generous) questionable and flies in the face of "Hockey is for Everyone."
The B's announced that they've signed USHL defenseman Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract.
On the hockey side, Miller spent last season with Tri-City of the USHL, where he recorded 83 points in 60 games and won both Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year honors.
However, Miller is (deservedly) better known for horrific off-ice actions, namely bullying and racially abusing a disabled classmate in middle school.
Drafted by the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes in 2020, Miller’s selection was renounced by the Coyotes after it was discovered he repeatedly used racist slurs, including the N-word, toward a Black classmate and bullied the individual, who was also disabled. This bullying included tricking the student into licking candy that had been rubbed in a urinal. The acts, which included Miller physically assaulting his classmate throughout junior high, saw Miller convicted in a juvenile court.
The Bruins clearly know what they're getting into, as their press release led with a message from Miller himself:
“When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely. I bullied one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologized to the individual. Since the incident, I have come to better understand the far-reaching consequences of my actions that I failed to recognize and understand nearly seven years ago. I strive to be a better person and positively contribute to society. As a member of the Bruins organization, I will continue to participate in community programs to both educate myself and share my mistakes with others to show what a negative impact those actions can have on others. To be clear, what I did when I was 14 years old was wrong and unacceptable. There is no place in this world for being disrespectful to others and I pledge to use this opportunity to speak out against mistreating others.”
You may remember that when the story resurfaced around his draft selection, Miller was un-drafted by the Coyotes and then barred from playing hockey at the University of North Dakota.
He landed in the USHL, where the Bruins apparently have decided he was worth picking up in spite of everything detailed above.
For those who will immediately jump to "people change, he was just a kid," there's a huge difference between being a grade-school kid egging cars and being a grade-school kid who abuses and bullies a classmate, let alone a classmate who is disabled.
Miller also showed little more than court-ordered remorse until the story started affecting his NHL prospects
When the heat started getting turned up, Miller apologized through UND's team.
Before that? Nada:
Isaiah Meyer-Crothers’ mother told the Arizona Republic that Miller has never apologized directly to her son, outside of a letter mandated by the juvenile court.
Even Miller's Bruins-spun statement rings hollow when he apologizes for making "a poor decision" and regretting "the incident" when this was a pattern of behavior (note the use of the word "repeatedly").
What does the Bruins' president think?
“Representing the Boston Bruins is a privilege we take seriously as an organization. Respect and integrity are foundational character traits we expect of our players and staff. Prior to signing Mitchell, our Hockey Operations and Community Relations groups spent time with him over the last few weeks to better understand who he is as an individual and learn more about a significant mistake he made when he was in middle school. During this evaluation period, Mitchell was accountable for his unacceptable behavior and demonstrated his commitment to work with multiple organizations and professionals to further his education and use his mistake as a teachable moment for others. The expectation is that he will continue this important educational work with personal development and community programs as a member of the Bruins organization.”
So...yeah. Sweeney is talking to the media this afternoon, so this should be interesting.
Added context from today's media availabilities:
His answer: "I think it's a huge opportunity for me and the Bruins. Personally, I'm here to better myself off the ice with community stuff, diversity training and being in the community more.— Mark Divver (@MarkDivver) November 4, 2022
Sweeney on signing Mitchell Miller: "I am not going to downplay that this has been a personal struggle as well as a professional struggle."— Ty Anderson (@_TyAnderson) November 4, 2022
They did not reach out to victim's family during vetting process.
Just having a hard time thinking this is worth it.
Sweeney: "This decision could be wrong .. It invited a lot of negativity that we didn't need or want." Says that every time they came close to walking away, they "remembered he was in 8th grade, he was 14."— Ty Anderson (@_TyAnderson) November 4, 2022