Bruins signee Mitchell Miller isn’t eligible to play in league

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday that the Boston Bruins did not consult the league before signing Mitchell Miller and that the controversial defenseman is not eligible to play in the league.

Miller, whose draft rights were renounced by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020 because of a bullying incident when he was 14, was signed by the Bruins on Friday to an entry-level contract, a move that drew criticism.

“What I understand and I’ve heard through the media and anecdotally, what he did as a 14-year-old is reprehensible, unacceptable,” Bettman told reporters at the Columbus Blue Jackets-Colorado Avalanche NHL Global Series game in Tampere, Finland .

OPINION: Boston Bruins signing Mitchell Miller shows hockey culture still has a long way to go

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Miller admitted in an Ohio juvenile court to bullying a Black classmate who had developmental disabilities. The classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, was tricked into licking a candy push pop that Miller and another boy had wiped in a bathroom urinal, according to the Arizona Republic. Meyer-Crothers also told the newspaper that Miller had used racial slurs around him.

“He’s not coming into the NHL, he’s not eligible at this point to come into the NHL. I can’t tell you that he’ll ever be eligible to come into the NHL,” Bettman said. “If, in fact, at some point they think they want him to play in the NHL, and I’m not sure that they’re anywhere close to that point, we are going to have to clear him and his eligibility and it’ ll be based on all the information that we get firsthand at the time.”

The NHL Players’ Association says it is reviewing the matter.

In addition to the Coyotes stepping away from him in 2020, the University of North Dakota cut Miller. He returned to the United States Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm in 2021-22 and scored 39 goals and 83 points.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Friday that Miller had apologized to Meyer-Crothers, although the victim’s mother, Joni, told WBZ that it was done a week ago through Instagram and her son had endured years of abuse.

“Nothing says ‘NHL Culture’ like a coordinated Instagram apology by Mitchell Miller to ‘rehabilitate’ him back to the league after victimizing & torturing someone for their race & disability for years,” Akim Aliu, chairman of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, tweeted on Friday night. “Every aspect of this is unsettling, including his representation.”

Sweeney said Miller would be placed “in community programs so he continues to educate himself and others about what being disrespectful does for you and how you continue to carry that for the rest of your life.”

But Bettman said Saturday he would need to see “a whole bunch of things” from Miller.

The commissioner has spoken to Bruins president Cam Neely about Miller since learning about the signing. The defenseman has reported to Providence (Rhode Island) of the American Hockey League.

“The answer is they were free to sign him to play somewhere else, that’s another league’s issue, but nobody should think at this point he is or may ever be NHL eligible,” Bettman said. “And the Bruins understand that now.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mitchell Miller isn’t eligible to play in NHL, Gary Bettman says

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