NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday said Mitchell Miller, who was previously involved in a bullying scandal, is not currently eligible to play in the league, and added league officials were not consulted by the Boston Bruins before the team signed Miller.
“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, speaking at the NHL Global Series in Tampere, Finland.
The Bruins announced Friday they signed Miller, 20, to an entry-level contract, two years after the Arizona Coyotes renounced their rights to the player following a report in the Arizona Republic which revealed Miller bullied a Black classmate with disabilities when he was in junior high school in 2016.
Miller and another teen were accused of tricking Isaiah Meyers-Crothers into eating candy which had been placed in a urinal and physically assaulting him. Miller and another teen admitted to the bullying in an Ohio juvenile court and were sentenced to community service, according to the Republic.
“What I understand, and I’ve heard through the media anecdotally, what he did as a 14-year-old is reprehensible, unacceptable,” Bettman said on Saturday. “Before the Bruins made the decision to sign him, we were not consulted.”
The Bruins said Friday Miller would be assigned to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League, a professional league that is not part of the NHL but serves as a developmental league for NHL prospects. Alongside their announcement, the team provided a statement from Miller in which he said he “deeply” regretted the incident and has “apologized to the individual.”
When he was asked about his thoughts on Miller’s signing, Bettman said, “If, in fact, at some point they (Bruins) 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.”
“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,” the commissioner added.
Bruins president Cam Neely previously said in a statement before signing Miller, the team’s Hockey Operations and Community Relations groups “spent time with him over the last few weeks,” and during that time, Miller 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.”
Miller played in 60 games last season for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League. He was named USHL Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year after setting league records for goals and assists in a season by a defenseman.