October 30: A day later, the University of North Dakota has also decided to drop Miller from their hockey program. In a statement, the school explains that Miller can remain a student at UND if he chooses, but will not be playing hockey.
October 29: The Arizona Coyotes have decided to reconsider their decision to draft Mitchell Miller. Selected 111th overall, Miller was the team’s first pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft after they were without selections in each of the first three rounds. Recently, Mitchell’s 2016 assault conviction for bullying and abusing a Black, developmentally disabled classmate has received widespread attention with reports in The Arizona Republic and The Athletic.
Today, Arizona has decided to renounce the draft rights to Miller. In a statement, Coyotes president Xavier Gutierrez explained:
We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately. Prior to selecting Mitchell in the NHL Draft, we were aware that a bullying incident took place in 2016. We do not condone this type of behavior but embraced this as a teachable moment to work with Mitchell to make him accountable for his actions and provide him with an opportunity to be a leader on anti-bullying and anti-racism efforts. We have learned more about the entire matter, and more importantly, the impact it has had on Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. What we learned does not align with the core values and vision for our organization and leads to our decision to renounce our draft rights. On behalf of the Arizona Coyotes ownership and our entire organization, I would like to apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. We are building a model franchise on and off the ice and will do the right thing for Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family, our fans and our partners. Mr. Miller is now a free agent and can pursue his dream of becoming an NHL player elsewhere.
Mitchell’s history was well known before the draft. The 18-year-old defenseman, who is a freshman at the University of North Dakota, sent a letter to every team in the league apologizing for the incident, indicating that he regretted it and had changed his ways. As Aaron Portzline reported for The Athletic, however, that letter did not sway every team, with some “feeling unconvinced of his remorse.”
Recently hired GM Bill Armstrong was not allowed to take part in the Coyotes draft this year because of an agreement with his former employer the St. Louis Blues. He originally indicated that the team would be providing a “second chance” for the young defenseman and hoped he would use the new platform to “raise awareness about bullying and discourage this type of behavior.” Armstrong released a new statement today:
I fully support our decision to renounce Mitchell Miller’s draft rights. It was a unique situation for me not being able to participate in this year’s Draft and we were going through a transition with our scouting department. Mitchell is a good hockey player, but we need to do the right thing as an organization and not just as a hockey team. I’d like to apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family for everything they have dealt with the past few months. I wish them all the best in the future.
Miller is now an unrestricted free agent. Though he can sign with any team, currently doing so would make him ineligible to play at North Dakota.