- Ryan S. Clark is an NHL reporter for ESPN.
Less than three days after signing Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract, the Boston Bruins announced Sunday they were cutting ties with the controversial prospect.
The decision to sign the 20-year-old defenseman drew intense criticism from the moment the Bruins announced it Friday. Miller was previously a fourth-round draft pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020. Shortly after he was drafted, a report by the Arizona Republic detailed how Miller and another middle school classmate were convicted in juvenile court in 2016 of racially abusing and bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, who is Black. In the report, Meyer-Crothers’ mother said Miller started abusing her son in second grade while also using repeated racial epithets.
Bruins president Cam Neely said in a statement Sunday night that the decision to sign Miller “was made after careful consideration of the facts as we were aware of them.” Neely said the team believed Miller’s abuse of Meyer-Crothers was “an isolated incident” and that Miller “had taken meaningful action to reform and was committed to ongoing personal development.”
Neely said that “based on new information,” the franchise decided to rescind the contract given to Miller.
Neely also said the Bruins would be reevaluating their internal vetting process.
“To Isaiah and his family, my deepest apologies if this signing made you and other victims feel unseen and unheard,” Neely said. “We apologize for the deep hurt and impact we have caused.”
Miller had his draft rights relinquished by the Coyotes less than a month after he was selected. He also was released from his scholarship at the University of North Dakota, where he was enrolled as a freshman.
He sat out the 2020-21 season but began playing again in 2021-22 with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm. He finished tied for the league lead in goals with 39 and had 83 points — both single-season records for a defenseman — in 60 games. He was named the USHL’s Defenseman of the Year and Player of the Year.
The Bruins initially planned to have Miller play for their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. On Saturday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league was not consulted by the Bruins about the signing and that Miller was “not eligible at this point to come into the NHL.” Bettman said the league ultimately would have to clear Miller to play while also saying he would “need to see a whole bunch of things” going forward.
Bruins forward Nick Foligno said Saturday that it was “a tough thing” for the team to learn the organization had signed Miller.
“I’m not going lie to you,” Foligno said. “I don’t think any guy was too happy because of how proud we are to say that this is a group that cares a lot about ourselves and how we carry ourselves and how we treat people.”
Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said the culture the team has built goes against the type of behavior Miller displayed. He said what Miller did was “unacceptable, and we don’t stand by that.”
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