The Boston Bruins may be sitting in first place in the Atlantic Division, but the signing of Mitchell Miller is overshadowing the team’s current success. This is not the first time that Miller’s name has made waves in the NHL. The Ohio native was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020 but a few days later the Coyotes dropped him after former classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, spoke out about suffering years of abuse by Miller that concluded in a juvenile court case. Meyer-Crothers, who is African American was cruelly bullied by Miller and his friends for years. The bullying included punching, Miller spitting in his face, throwing food at him, and calling him racial slurs. An incident in 2016 led to police involvement and a court conviction after Miller and another boy tricked Meyer-Crothers into licking a piece of candy that had been rubbed inside a urinal. Miller and the other boy were charged with assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act. The two boys were sentenced to 25 hours of community service, write letters of apology to Meyer-Crothers, pay court costs, and undergo counseling.
You may ask, why did the Bruins sign Miller after news of the cruel abuse made headlines in 2020? After being discarded by the Coyotes Miller began to play for the Tri-City Storm a Tier I junior team based in Nebraska, that plays in the Western Conference of the US Hockey League. This year Miller had a successful season with the Tri-City Storm, being named USHL's player of the year with 39 goals in 60 games. Miller caught the eye of the Bruins and the team signed him to a three-year entry-level contract, sending him to Boston’s AHL team the Providence Bruins. Following the announcement, the Bruins received harsh criticism over the signing of Miller. Two days later, the Bruins rescinded their offer to Miller.
The Bruins were aware of Miller's prior conviction but signed him because the team thought the bullying was “an isolated incident and that he had taken meaningful action to reform. …”. In a news conference with the Bruins organization and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Bettman deemed Miller ineligible to join the Bruins as well as any other team in the league. Since rescinding their offer Bruins President Cam Neely offered an apology to the Meyer-Crothers family stating "To Isaiah and his family, my deepest apologies if this signing made you and other victims feel unseen and unheard. We apologize for the deep hurt and impact we have caused." Miller's agent a member of NHL's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and one of few African American NHL agents released a statement saying he would not have agreed to represent Mitchell without months of research, deliberation, introspection within our organization, and conversations with outside advisors.
The main question is: what happens now? Miller is still under contract with the Bruins and is still a member of Providence. The team has a few options they could pay Miller to stay home for the season and then buy him out, a settlement could be reached to allow Miller to become a free agent, or the Bruins/NHL could terminate the contract. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Gary Bettman has the power to expel a player from the league. In the coming days, the hockey world will be watching how the Bruins and NHL handle Miller's contract.
Jessica Shaw is a recent graduate of New York Law School and can be reached on Twitter @JessicaShaw22.