Bettman, NHL pump the brakes on Mitchell Miller joining the Bruins
November 5th, 2022
The Boston Bruins’ decision to sign defenseman Mitchell Miller was met with an unprecedented level of scorn from fans. But beyond the obvious, relevant moral concerns associated with the move, it’s also a signing that appears to have been made haphazardly, with a shockingly low level of due diligence.
Based on comments made Saturday by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the Bruins did not consult the league before deciding to sign Miller. They may have wanted to do that anyway, but certainly in this case, because Bettman said Miller is “not eligible at this point to come into the NHL.” He added: “I can’t tell you that he’ll ever be eligible to come into the NHL.”
But perhaps more stunning is what the Bruins have done, here, is sign a player who is a long way away from gaining eligibility to play in the NHL, and may never get there. Miller’s eligibility for AHL is also in question, according to a league statement obtained by Sean Shapiro: “Per our by-laws, any player under suspension to another league who seeks to play in the AHL would have the matter reviewed by the President to determine his eligibility.”
MONTREAL, QUEBEC – JULY 07: President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins look on during Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 07, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bettman said he spoke to Bruins President Cam Neely after the Bruins announced the Miller signing, and the Bruins “understand” that he may never actually play in the NHL. But the real question is: did they know that before signing him?
“If, at some point, they think they want him to play in the NHL, and I’m not sure they’re anywhere close to that point, we’re going to have to clear him and his eligibility,” Bettman said. “It will be based on all the information that we get firsthand at the time.
“So the answer is: They were free to sign him to play somewhere else. That’s another organization. But nobody should think at this point he is or may never be NHL eligible. And the Bruins understand that.”
Angry fans inundated the Bruins with messages in the hours following the announcement of the Miller signing, to the point of basically crashing their servers. Several players, including captain Patrice Bergeron, have spoken publicly about it and certainly aren’t pleased. Sweeney himself admitted to reporters on Friday that he hasn’t had contact with Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, whom was the target of repeated, often racist and violent bullying by Miller over a period of several years, or his family.
And on top of the certified PR disaster this has become – the kind that will be studied in schools – the fact that they didn’t consult with the league, when Miller is not eligible to play in it, adds a shocking layer of incompetence.
TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 13: Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins walks the red carpet prior to the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Brookfield Place on November 13, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
We’ll see how the Bruins proceed from here as an organization, but it’s hard to believe it’s by keeping Miller. And it’s fair to wonder if Neely or Sweeney can ever salvage their own reputations after this blunder.
A fan-alienating, confidence-crushing PR nightmare, for a kid who might never play at all. In terms of front-office management, it doesn’t get worse than that.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.