Bruins signing Mitchell Miller after vile acts is NHL embarrassment

Bruins signing Mitchell Miller after vile acts is NHL embarrassment

The Bruins’ signing of Mitchell Miller represents the outcome of a cynical decision-making process endorsed by ownership and management that values hockey potential over personal character, and let us remember that when the organization crows over the character in the room.

But if you think the ultimate decision was made by general manager Don Sweeney or by Boston folk hero and team president Cam Neely, you are hopelessly naive. Surely the ultimate risk/reward verdict was rendered by whichever “Mr. Jacobs” — Jeremy or Charlie — is currently in charge of these ownership things.

But I am not sure such odious judgement reflects a particular rot in hockey culture any more than the Yankees trotting out Domingo German and Aroldis Chapman — a pair of pitchers who served suspensions for violating MLB’s domestic violence policies — reflects a particular rot in baseball culture.

No one wants to root for a reprobate. But it all becomes a little less distasteful if a miscreant wearing the proper-color laundry can contribute to a championship, doesn’t it? That is the calculus of pro sports. Further, that is also the calculus of big business, the entertainment industry and our political system — where generating windfall profits and amassing power are the equivalent of winning titles, are they not?

One would almost think we as a society have accepted the trade-off or else we might have constructed a different type of reward system.

The Boston Bruins recently signed Mitchel Miller.
Getty Images

And though pro leagues and pro sports teams do have an obligation to establish some sort of standard of employment and behavior, it is absurd to ask or expect these entities to be a substitute for the criminal justice system. It also seems absurd to expect those organizations to act with honor. That’s not really why they exist.

Mitchell Miller conducted a series of vile acts as an adolescent in a racially motivated campaign against a classmate named Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, who had developmental disabilities. Miller, at age 14, pleaded guilty to one count of assault and one count of violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act. He has never appeared particularly remorseful.

The Coyotes drafted Miller in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, but soon after renounced his rights in the wake of reporting by the Arizona Republic that exposed the pattern of bullying, abuse and misconduct the then-teenager conducted against Meyer-Crothers. According to Meyer-Crothers’ mother, Tina, the abuse began in the second grade while her son was growing up in a suburb of Toledo. The day after the Coyotes renounced Miller’s rights, he was dropped by the University of North Dakota hockey program.

He sat out the 2020-21 season, but last year rejoined the USHL Tri Cities Storm in Kearney, Neb., for which he established league records for goals and points in a season by a defenseman (39-44-83) and was designated USHL player of the year.

Mitchell Miller.
The Boston Bruins have signed 2020 fourth round draft pick Mitchell Miller, despite his history of bullying and racism.

That apparently went a long way toward influencing the Bruins’ thinking that an anticipated short-term PR hit would be worth weathering. It is noteworthy that no one from the Bruins’ hierarchy contacted anyone from the Meyer-Crothers family, including the victim, over what Sweeney claimed was a vetting process of almost a year.

You know what? When you don’t seriously want answers, it is more convenient not to ask questions.

Sweeney, who was tasked with being the face of the organization after the signing was announced, attempted to convince folks that Miller — who has been assigned to AHL Providence — had committed a one-time mistake even though the evidence is contrary to that assertion.

The signing is an embarrassment, all right, for the NHL and for the Bruins. You would hope that your team wouldn’t stoop so low, but chances are they probably would. Pro sports are not about morality.

Commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking to reporters in Finland on Saturday, said Miller is “not eligible at this point,” calling his behavior “reprehensible, unacceptable.”

Nevertheless, the signing is an embarrassment, for the NHL and for the Bruins. You would hope that your team wouldn’t stoop so low, but chances are they probably would. Pro sports are not about morality.

Pro sports are not alone.

The digital ads appearing on the boards do exactly what they are meant to do, which is to at least momentarily distract you and direct your attention from the game to a sponsor. They are annoying.

But not as offensive as the incessant promotion of gambling from the moment a pregame show starts to the moment a postgame show ends.

And not as self-defeating for the league as its paying customer-unfriendly blackout rules. It is 2022, not 1962.

The Sabres’ Alex Tuch
Getty Images

The 2018-19 Sabres were 17-6-2 as of Nov. 27 before plummeting thereafter, so we will reserve judgement on this 2022-23 Buffalo squad that entered the weekend at 7-4-0.

But the Sabres are an entertaining group that appears filled with kids and tweeners who have embraced playing for the franchise rather than guys marking time to get out and another group driven out by dysfunctional management and ownership.

And though it is always a surprise to see another player with Alexander Mogilny’s No. 89 (and in those classic, vintage uniforms, no less), Alex Tuch sure does wear it well.

Then, too, it sure seems as if Jack Eichel’s surgery was safe, yah?

The Flyers of John Tortorella remind me of the circa 2009-11 Rangers of John Tortorella, a team of not enough high-end talent or depth with which to contend, but a generally structured club difficult to play.

And yes, that is Carter Hart — proving he is no Blaine Lacher — playing the role of Henrik Lundqvist.

Flyers coach John Tortorella

The Red Wings are celebrating their 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup championship teams this weekend, yet a quarter-century later still haven’t retired Sergei Fedorov’s No. 91. Just saying.

Finally, Alex Ovechkin’s official Instagram page, last updated Sept. 10, continues to carry a profile photo of the Russian winger happily posing with a genocidal war criminal, so there’s that if you want to discuss morality, the NHL and pro sports.