Bruins president Cam Neely said Monday the team “dropped the ball” with its internal review of Mitchell Miller, which ultimately led to the decision to withdraw its offer of a contract to the defender.
Miller, 20, was selected by Arizona in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, but the Coyotes gave up his draft rights for bullying a developmentally disabled black classmate in middle school.
Boston signed Miller to an entry-level contract on Friday, drawing widespread criticism from Bruins players from captain Patrice Bergeron down, as well as from Boston’s fanbase. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also chimed in, saying Miller is currently ineligible to play in the league without major changes.
“I’m very upset that we made a lot of people unhappy with our decision,” Neely said. “I am proud of the Bruins organization and what we stand for. And that’s where we failed.”
The offer to Miller was rescinded late Sunday, with Neely saying in a statement the Bruins believed Miller’s behavior was an isolated case and the team had changed course based on new information – specifically that the team was unrelated to the victim Isaiah Meyer-Crothers or spoke to his family.
“We didn’t have enough information,” Neely said. “We could have dug deeper.”
Neely met with Miller, agent
Neely met with Miller, Agent Eustace King and Miller’s mother before signing him. Neely said he shouldn’t have assumed the verification process would also include meeting Meyer-Crothers’ family. When asked why that didn’t happen, Neely said: “That’s a great question. Something I need to find out.”
Neely reiterated that meeting Miller made him feel remorseful and worthy of an opportunity to play in the NHL.
“I was under the impression that it was a 14-year-old boy who made a really bad decision and did some terrible things,” Neely said. “He is now 20 years old. So I got the impression that he has worked on himself a lot in the last six years. … I believe in second chances and maybe some don’t deserve it.”
Miller pleaded guilty to assault and a violation of the Ohio Safe Schools Act at the age of 14. He and another teenager were accused of tricking Meyer-Crothers into eating a candy push pop after wiping it down in a bathroom urinal, and surveillance video showed them kicking and hitting him.
Meyer-Crothers’ mother Joni told The Arizona Republic that Miller bullied her son and used racial epithets in the second grade.
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Coyotes designed Miller
The Coyotes drafted Miller despite knowing of his 2016 assault conviction. The team parted ways with Miller amid criticism after learning more about the bullying.
Miller sent a letter to all 31 NHL teams confirming what happened and apologizing for his behavior. Joni Meyer-Crothers said Miller never personally apologized to Isaiah or her family except in a court-mandated letter.
“When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely bad decision and acted very immaturely,” Miller said in a statement. “I bullied one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologized to the person. Since the incident, I have a better understanding of the far-reaching consequences of my actions that I failed to recognize and understand almost seven years ago. “
Miller sat out the 2020-21 season before scoring 39 goals with 44 assists for the USHL’s Tri-City in 2021-22. He was named Player and Defenseman of the Year by the USHL after setting league records for goals and points by a defenseman.
Neely apologized again to the Meyer-Crothers family and said he plans to reach out to them.
“It’s something they shouldn’t have to keep going through,” he said. “We could have done a better job, we should have done a better job.”
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