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They thought they could get away with it.

The Bruins landed in a mire of their own making because they figured it wouldn’t matter. They were wrong, but this is not the end.

Cause For Trouble on Causeway Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Hey. Hopefully this is the last time we ever have to talk about this kid ever again. I’ll be leaving the comments open for about 24 hours. If you wanna move on to the Blues game tonight, that’s entirely fair, and you can just leave this article now.

Two days ago, the Boston Bruins signed USHL defenseman Mitchell Miller, knowing full-well what he had done, and gave him an Entry Level Contract with full signing bonuses.

The backlash was ferocious, the league and the AHL stepped in to say it was done haphazardly and that they do not wish for Miller to be involved in their league, and now, he is no longer a Boston Bruin after a mere 48 hours of the team being deservedly reamed from all sides.

The Team, Don Sweeney, Cam Neely, The Jacobs Family, do not deserve your plaudits for this decision. They were the brain trust, among a host of scouts that likely pinpointed Miller as a decent player as an overager in the USHL, decided that Mitchell Miller, who has never once satisfactorily apologized for his reprehensible behavior to the family of the child he systematically abused for years, should be a Boston Bruin or at the very least in the Boston Bruins system.

He is gone now.

But he is not gone forever.

A vile, cynical, but decent strategy

In a bile fascination way, I admire the purity of hubris of the decision to drop this signing a day before you went to Toronto, the very heart of the industry of “shooting the shit about hockey but professionally.”

This decision was clearly pre-meditated. It was debated for quite some time and it was clear that not everybody was on board with the signing in the front office. They went through with it anyway. They figured that the 24 hour news cycle and the social media would take the initial outrage, and then they’d be in the clear. They figured that it would be relegated to memes that their social guy had to deal with daily and small pockets of opposing fans chanting in the stands if they cared to remember. They figured their fans had enough of a “He’s ours now” mentality to defend him.

It backfired spectacularly.

Fan Relations got their email servers torn to shreds. Season Ticket holders called in with concerns and veiled threats. Several players spoke out against the decision at the time and then in Toronto a day later, where they had to answer for their front office’s decision-making. Patrice Bergeron, Nick Foligno, and probably very many other players we don’t know about spoke out against this. Normally org-positive Bruins media began to carve in and deep on the decision. Anyone who had contact with him was revealed to have been falsifying information, anyone supporting him seemed to have nothing but bad faith on the mind. It boggles the mind that anyone would make this decision with a clear conscience and assume it would work. But they did.

It doesn’t strike me as unusual that they’d reverse course on this a day before the team came home. It seems perfectly natural: They likely suddenly gained a real fear of a fan response that cameras could see in their own building.

They thought they could get away with it. That is the entire reason behind this signing.

They understood there was risk, they knew there was backlash, and tried to ride it out. Well, here you are, with your tail between your legs, your organization’s reputation bleeding profusely, and your head hung low. The ramifications of this are still yet to be discovered. There may yet be more coming.

You must feel so slick.

Second Chances and Responsibility

We’ve been getting a lot of comments with the words “second chances” quite a bit over the past 48 hours regarding Mitchell Miller. It’s understandable given his age at the time, and an impulse of compassion to recognize that the behavior of abuse often comes from cyclical behavior. I will not deny you your compassion.

I will instead deny anyone who dares frame Mitchell Miller in any way as the victim of what was perpetrated against Mr. Meyer-Crothers.

He was found culpable for his actions in a court of law. He was systemic in his abuse of a mentally challenged black classmate. He mostly got away with all of it and up until his draft day in 2020 where he thought he was in the clear enough to admit it didn't bother him in his draft interviews. And then, far too late, consequences found him...for the most part.

Is he worthy of redemption? I’m not exactly a spiritual man, but I’m sure everyone has the capacity of redemption in them somewhere. Even the most hardened criminal has this capacity if you manage to coax it out of them. But part of that comes from the person you are trying to help. The road to redemption always starts from within. Without that step, without accepting the responsibility and the consequences of what he has done, it will ring hollow, and people will know it.

But to quote a colleague in Sie Morley from Fear the Fin, because I feel like this bears repeating: Nobody is asking for some vague lifelong punishment for Mitchell Miller. He’s had the steps for a possible redemption laid out for him, and he’s had them laid out for years.

He could have made efforts to learn about the way neurodivergent students, particularly black neurodivergent students, are treated and mistreated by their classmates in American schools both public and private, done the work to attempt to raise awareness and help those in need in Ohio and everywhere else he’s tried to be, taken the time to make amends with Isaiah and his family, accept that his road to professional hockey would be much rockier than anyone else’s, and come to it a man in the not-too-distant future willing to make a real difference.

At every possible turn, he has actively chosen not to.

He has always failed to make the first step in actively making amends by meeting with the family. He has always failed to truly take responsibility for the reprehensible actions he took against another student. Whether by himself, or by the hand of his agent, who truly screwed the pooch on Sunday night by insinuating that he had directly worked with the Carnegie Project when in fact, he hadn’t. Until he can find it in himself to make that real first step, he will be finding this particular incident following him until he is too old to be attractive to hockey teams. The conscious decision to ignore the burden of consequences will come down on him like the first of god every single time. And if he still won’t learn? Then good.

Hockey is not a right to talented players of it.

There is no language in the US Constitution, nor the Canadian Charter, on Ice Hockey. It is a privilege granted to many young people who grow and learn and change as people as well as their game. It is also given to many people who don’t do a lot of that but manage to keep their heads on straight and if they’re caught being dumb, they either own up to it or accept that they’ll have to take on consequences. Miller’s sole consequence, if it can be said to exist, will now be to scrounge in lesser leagues as a player so toxic he likely won’t be able to have a stable career in this sport because he openly refuses to accept responsibility.

It is a shame the Bruins apparently learned this late enough to cause lasting damage to the way the organization is viewed.

A Word of Warning.

There are fans who will probably read this from out of the Boston market. If this is your first visit to SCoC; Hi, thanks for coming and reading this, I promise we aren’t all unilaterally assholes. Since you and many others managed to power through this very challenging article, I just want to say thank you for that.

I also would like to warn you of something while you’re here:

This will happen again.

Another hockey player will be found to do or have done something absolutely reprehensible before his or her draft year. People will get understandably mad, and the organizations they play for will drop them. For a little while. The player will disappear out of public eye, but only for a little bit. But they will continue playing. Because the scouts who found him will still keep tabs on him and advocate for him at levels where fans can’t reach him. They will wait for accolades to appear. They will begin talking to agents.

They will attempt to sign Mitchell Miller, or if not him, another player like him, to your team. Every last one of them will. According to Miller himself, he was courted by other teams. He was in-demand.

He will be in-demand again.

The Boston Bruins fanbase and players, to their credit, roundly rejected this player, and made their point to the matter abundantly clear to the organization that thought it could be sneaky with this kind of decision. It is a very engaged fanbase. The next team to try this might not have those blessings. Some of those hockey ops people are counting on that.

Your favorite team’s hockey ops group isn’t special just because it’s yours. Their jobs are to make a team as talented as humanly possible, with any lip service being paid to “class” or “team culture” being just that. They’ll say whatever you need to hear in order to squeeze just the tiniest amount of points out of a player who may or may not have upside in blind pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

It is up to you, and everyone around you, including people with access (especially people with access), to make sure that organizations know that due diligence on the character, the actual character of a person, is not something that will be whispered in the shadows anymore and revealed years later. It is up to us all to make sure that the path to redemption is clear...but also to spurn those who want to take shortcuts or weasel their way out for those who want to represent the crest on the front of their jerseys.

The sport, imperfect though it may be, will be better for it.