Don Sweeney sheds light on reasoning behind Bruins signing Mitchell Miller

The Boston Bruins signed controversial defenseman prospect Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract Friday.

Miller in 2016 was convicted in juvenile court of bullying a Black classmate with developmental disabilities when he was 14 years old. The Arizona Coyotes drafted Miller in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Draft, but renounced his draft rights after an Arizona Republic investigation shed more light on the specifics of how Miller and a classmate bullied and mistreated another classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, speaking on a Zoom call with reporters Friday afternoon, said that he struggled himself in determining whether signing Mitchell was a decision the organization should make.

“I am not going to downplay that this has been a personal struggle as well as a professional struggle as we go through and try to separate the hockey player and person, spending quite a bit of time with Mitchell, in particular, over the last 10 days,” Sweeney said.

“Spending time with my own family, and talking through some of the details, I came to a position that if the organization was willing to support the person and give an opportunity, recognizing that I come from lifelong educators — my father, in particular, was a vice principal, principal, board of education, who had suspended kids throughout his professional life, but he always welcomed them back if they were willing to abide by the rules and to continue to move forward in their life, because it was more about opportunity and it wasn’t about punishment. Mitchell paid a punishment, and he’s going to continue to carry that for the rest of his life, and we’re going to hold him to a standard that he needs to understand, that each and every one of us as individuals look in the mirror every day and respect others and have to be unilaterally inclusive.”

 

Sweeney stated multiple times on the Zoom call that the decision to sign Miller could ultimately end up being the wrong one for the Bruins.

“I can’t categorically tell you this is the absolute right decision,” Sweeney said. “This is an opportunity that we’re providing for a young man who is going to work to continue to earn trust and respect, as each and every one of us do every day. My own personal judgment on this wasn’t the final say. It was just part of the equation. But having spent time with him and having a clear understanding of the direction he’d like to take his life in, I felt that if other teams were going to be willing to give him — I’m not going to speak for other teams — a chance, I think we all have to look in the mirror and say, ‘Why wouldn’t we be willing to give him a chance?’

“I’ve also come to the understanding that I don’t think forgiveness is part of this, because if that had happened to one of my own children, I can’t categorically say that I would have (forgiven). But I also would applaud somebody that if you were willing to welcome somebody back for a second chance, you’ve got to walk that walk.”

Sweeney explains reasoning behind Bruins’ decision to sign Mitchell Miller

Sweeney also noted he talked to some Bruins leaders — although he did not name specific players — about the possibility of signing Miller. 

“You can be assured that our leadership group was aware when we were considering this,” Sweeney said. “Same reaction a lot of us had, like, ‘Why? Why would you necessarily invite this?’

“Again, just trying to make decisions based on information that we have and following up. People deserve, earn second chances in life as long as those misgivings are not repeated and they can evolve as people.”

From a hockey perspective, Miller fits the profile of an offensive defenseman. He tallied 83 points (39 goals, 44 assists) in 60 games for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL last season.

“He had a tremendous offensive season last year in the USHL. He was an older player in that league,” Sweeney said. “His production offensively, the power play, his ability to generate, get up the ice, shoot the puck and be part of the offense, gives him an opportunity and a chance as a professional. We’re going to work with him on the defending part of the game. He was a transitioned forward that has moved back to defense. We’re going to teach him to understand how to play defense and use his offensive attributes and hockey acumen. I think he has a chance to be an NHL player. He has the attributes that certainly translate to the new style of game.”

 

Miller reported to the Providence Bruins on Friday. It’s not known when he will debut for the AHL club. 

“He has to earn the opportunity to play in the NHL as a player,” Sweeney said. “I think more importantly, he has to earn the respect of teammates, and really everywhere in society, to garner a second chance.”

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