The Boston Bruins have signed former Arizona Coyotes draft pick Mitchell Miller to a three-year entry-level contract. After being selected in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, Miller’s rights were renounced by the Coyotes following the public controversy regarding a 2016 assault conviction for bullying and abusing a Black, developmentally disabled classmate.
In the release from the Bruins, Miller released a statement:
When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely. 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.
After being dropped by the Coyotes, Miller was also cut loose by the University of North Dakota hockey program, which he had been recruited by. He went on to play for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL, where he scored 83 points in 60 games last season and was named USHL Defenseman and Player of the Year. He led the league in goals with 39, even as a defenseman.
Bruins president Cam Neely, knowing that this announcement will come with quite a bit of public backlash, also released a statement:
Representing the Boston Bruins is a privilege we take seriously as an organization. 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.
The Coyotes did not select Miller without knowledge of his past. He had issued a letter to all 31 teams prior to the draft explaining the incident. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reported at the time that at least ten teams had removed him from their draft board completely. Once considered a potential first-round talent, he ended up dropping to 111th overall, the Coyotes’ first selection after losing earlier picks due to combine violations.
That report from Portzline details the abuse, which included rubbing a candy on the inside of a urinal and then enticing his developmentally disabled classmate to put it in his mouth. It also included repeated racial slurs and other bullying.
Miller, now 20, is eligible to play in the AHL for this season.