Patrice Bergeron gives candid reaction to Bruins signing Mitchell Miller

Patrice Bergeron gives candid reaction to Bruins signing Mitchell Miller originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins pride themselves on culture, and no player on the current roster has done more to establish that welcoming, inclusive environment than Patrice Bergeron.

It’s a culture that was largely established in 2006 with the arrival of Zdeno Chara, and the exceptional leadership, compassion and inclusiveness he displayed as team captain for well over a decade. Bergeron, who currently serves as team captain and is one of the franchise’s greatest players, helped Chara build that type of culture and environment.

When players come to the Bruins from other teams they are amazed at the leadership and togetherness of the locker room. There is a high standard of character that Bergeron and the other veterans hold every player to.

Don Sweeney sheds light on the reasoning behind Bruins signing Mitchell Miller

And that’s one of the reasons why the Bruins’ decision to sign defenseman Mitchell Miller on Friday goes against everything the team has built over the last two decades.

Miller in 2016 was convicted in juvenile court of bullying a Black classmate with developmental disabilities when he was 14 years old. Miller was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Draft, but they released him after more details surfaced about how Miller and a classmate bullied and mistreated another classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers.

Bergeron was asked Saturday in Toronto before the Bruins’ game against the Maple Leafs about the team signing Miller. He gave an honest response.

“I was asked by Don (Bruins GM Don Sweeney) close to a week ago for my opinion. I had my concerns,” Bergeron told reporters. “I shared my opinion. In a way, I was not necessarily agreeing with it. To be honest with you, the culture that we’ve built here goes against that type of behavior. We’re a team that’s built something about character, character people and individuals. What he did, obviously, is unacceptable and we don’t stand by that.

“For me, I know for myself, anyways, in this locker room, we’re all about inclusion, diversity, respect. Those are key words and core values ​​that we have. We expect guys to wear this jersey to be high-character people with integrity and respect. That’s how they should be acting.

“My understanding is he’s going to put in the work in development programs and community programs to better himself. It’s up to him to do that. That’s it. From my standpoint, it’s a hockey operations decision. For myself, we can control what we can control. Truthfully, hopefully there’s some growth and change. If it’s the same 14-year-old that would be walking into this locker room, he wouldn’t be accepted and wanted and welcomed in this locker room, to be honest with you . That’s my stand on it.”

Bergeron wasn’t the only player who shared his concerns Saturday.

“It’s tough. It’s a really hard topic,” Bruins forward Nick Foligno told reporters in Toronto on Saturday. “First and foremost, the organization is not going to do something that would jeopardize (the team culture). But in saying that, it’s not something anyone in this room stands for. The culture we’ve built and these guys have built before I got here, is one of inclusion. I think it goes against that. I understand he was 14 when he made this mistake. But it’s hard for us to swallow because we take a lot of pride in here, in the way we act, the way we carry ourselves, what it is to be a Bruin. So that 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 this is a group that cares a lot about ourselves, and how we carry ourselves and how we treat people So that was, for a lot of guys, especially the guys who have been here, a tough pill to swallow. In the same light, I don’t think the organization’s ever not looking out for the best interests of us.

“But I think we have a lot of concerns. This kid will have to answer for those and will have to prove to everybody and himself, especially if he wants to get in this room, that he’s a changed man. We hope he works towards that. But right now, our room is more worried about the group in here and what we’re doing. It’s a special thing we’ve got going on here. We’re not going to let something like that ever come into our room .”

Despite these concerns from the team leaders, the Bruins went ahead and signed Miller anyway.

And the Bruins didn’t even consult the NHL before signing him, as league commissioner Gary Bettman revealed Saturday. Bettman also said Miller is not eligible to play in the NHL right now, and that “I can’t tell you that he’ll ever be eligible to come into the NHL.”

The Bruins have handled this situation in just about the worst possible way.

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