Gery Bettman: Boston Bruins’ Mitchell Miller currently ineligible for NHL

Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters Saturday that Mitchell Miller is currently not eligible to play in the National Hockey League.

The Boston Bruins signed Miller, a former draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes, to an entry-level contract on Friday.

“Before the Bruins made the decision to sign him, we were not consulted,” Bettman said via Peter Baugh of The Athletic. “I happened to talk to Cam Neely since the time he was signed.

“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. If in fact at some point they think they want him to play in the NHL, I’m not sure they’re anywhere close to that point, we’re 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. So 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. And the Bruins understand that now.”

Bettman added he would need to “see a whole bunch of things and understand a lot more firsthand than I do now anecdotally” before he would consider making Miller eligible.

The Coyotes renounced the rights to Miller, a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft, in October of that same year. That announcement came three days after a story published by Craig Harris and Jose M. Romero of The Arizona Republic revealed Miller and another teen were charged with assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act for bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a Black classmate with developmental disabilities , in 2016.

Bruins forward Nick Foligno told reporters Saturday the team is having difficulty with the signing of Miller.

“It was a tough thing to hear for our group. I’m not going to lie to you. 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,” Foligno said via Terry Koshan of Postmedia.

“When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely,” Miller said in a statement released by the Bruins Friday. “I bullied one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologized to the individual. Since the incident, I have come to better understand the far-reaching consequences of my actions that I failed to recognize and understand nearly seven years ago. I strive to be a better person and positively contribute to society. As a member of the Bruins organization, I will continue to participate in community programs to both educate myself and share my mistakes with others to show what a negative impact those actions can have on others. To be clear, what I did when I was 14 years old was wrong and unacceptable. There is no place in this world for being disrespectful to others and I pledge to use this opportunity to speak out against mistreating others.”

The 20-year-old defenseman spent last season with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, posting 39 goals and 83 points in 60 games.

“Representing the Boston Bruins is a privilege we take seriously as an organization,” Neely said Friday. “Respect and integrity are foundational character traits we expect of our players and staff. Prior to signing Mitchell, our Hockey Operations and Community Relations groups spent time with him over the last few weeks to better understand who he is as an individual and learn more about a significant mistake he made when he was in middle school. During this evaluation period, Mitchell was accountable for his unacceptable behavior and demonstrated his commitment to work with multiple organizations and professionals to further his education and use his mistake as a teachable moment for others. The expectation is that he will continue this important educational work with personal development and community programs as a member of the Bruins organization.”

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