Cam Neely says the Bruins failed to check Mitchell Miller
Boston Bruins President Cam Neely said the signing of prospect Mitchell Miller is his biggest regret as an NHL executive, and expressed concern about the failure of the team’s vetting process.
“I’m extremely upset that we made a lot of people unhappy with our decision,” Neely said Monday. “I’m very proud of the Bruins organization and what we stand for, and we fell short.”
The Bruins signed Miller, a 20-year-old defenseman, on Friday for one initial contract with the intention of sending him to AHL Providence. The team, however, announced on Sunday night that parted company with Miller after intense backlash from fans, the team’s own players and commissioner Gary Bettman.
Bettman said on Saturday: “I can’t tell you that he will ever be eligible to come to the NHL.”
Miller was a fourth-round pick Arizona Coyotes 2020, but his draft rights waived when a story broke about how he and another high school student were convicted in juvenile court in 2016 of assaulting and harassing Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a black classmate with disabilities. In the report, Meyer-Crothers’ mother alleged that Miller began abusing her son in second grade and repeatedly used racial slurs.
Neely said the possibility of signing Miller was first brought up in August. The Bruins said Sunday they decided to cut ties with him “based on new information.” When asked about that Monday, Neely said the fact that the Bruins never contacted the Meyer-Crothers family “concerns me” and that it is “absolutely” an issue in the team’s vetting process.
“We like to take pride in what we do in the community and hold ourselves accountable,” said Neely, who said he plans to contact the Meyer-Crothers family. “We dropped the ball, and I’m here to apologize.
“I’ll say it again: I want to apologize to Isaiah and his family. It’s something they shouldn’t have to go through.”
Why did the Bruins believe Miller deserved a chance in the NHL after the Coyotes passed?
“From everything I’ve heard, he’s been working on himself, he’s been working in programs to improve himself,” Neely said. “I got the impression that this was a 14-year-old kid who made a really, really bad decision and did some terrible things, and now he’s 20 years old. I got the impression that in the last six years, he’s done a lot of work on himself.”
The Bruins president, however, said the team “could have dug deeper” on Miller before signing him.
The initial reaction came from NHL fans and quickly spread to Boston players, who were on the road in Toronto and were told that Miller would be signed. Captain Patrice Bergeron he called Miller’s actions “unacceptable, and we don’t stand behind it.”
On Saturday, while in Finland for the NHL Global Series, Bettman said Miller’s future in the league was uncertain. The NHLPA told ESPN on Saturday that it had not been notified of any suspension or disciplinary action by the NHL against Miller.
Neely said Boston general manager Don Sweeney spoke with deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Wednesday about signing Miller.
“From what I understand, [NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly] he said Mitchell was going to have to get ahead of Gary Bettman if he wanted to play in the NHL,” Neely said.
Neely called the Miller signing his “by far” biggest regret as CEO. It came as the Bruins are off to the best start in franchise history (10-2-0).
“It’s probably never going to be a good time,” Neely said. “I think it came down to a point [whether] we do it or we don’t. And we made the wrong decision.”
ESPN’s Ryan S. Clark contributed to this report.
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