Don Sweeney sheds light on reasoning behind Bruins signing Mitchell Miller

The Boston Bruins have signed controversial defenseman prospect Mitchell Miller to a contract to an entry contract Friday.

Miller in 2016 was convicted in juvenile court of bullying a black classmate with an intellectual disability when he was 14. The Arizona Coyotes drafted Miller in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Draft, but waived his draft rights after an investigation by the Republic of Arizona shed more light on the details of how Miller and a classmate bullied and abused another classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers.

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

“I’m not going to minimize the fact that it’s been a personal struggle as well as a professional struggle as we go through and try to separate the hockey player and the person, spending quite a bit of time with Mitchell, in particular, during of the past 10 days,” Sweeney said.

“By spending time with my own family and discussing some details, I came to the conclusion that if the organization was willing to support the person and give them an opportunity, acknowledging that I come from lifelong educators – my dad, in particular, was a vice principal, principal, school board, who had suspended children throughout his professional life, but he always welcomed them if they agreed to play by the rules and continue to move forward in their lives , because it was more about the opportunity and it wasn’t about the punishment. Mitchell paid a punishment, and he’s gonna continue to wear that for the rest of his life, and we’re gonna hold him to a standard that he must understand, that each and every one of us, as individuals, looks in the mirror every day, respects others and must be unilaterally inclusive.”

Sweeney repeatedly said on the Zoom call that the decision to sign Miller could ultimately be the wrong one for the Bruins.

“I can’t tell you categorically that’s the absolute right decision,” Sweeney said. “This is an opportunity we are giving a young man who will work to continue earning trust and respect as each one of us does every day. My own personal judgment on this was not the last word. It was only part of the equation. But after spending time with him and having a clear understanding of where he would like to take his life, I felt that if other teams were willing to give him — I won’t speak for the 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 also understood that I don’t think forgiveness is part of this, because if this had happened to one of my own children, I can’t say categorically that I would have (forgave). But I I would also applaud someone that if you were willing to take someone in for a second chance, you have to take that step.”


Sweeney explains the reasoning behind the Bruins’ decision to sign Mitchell Miller

Sweeney also noted that he spoke to some Bruins executives — though he didn’t name specific players — about the possibility of signing Miller.

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

“Again, just try to make decisions based on the information we have and follow up. People deserve, earn a second chance in life as long as these apprehensions are not repeated and they can evolve into as people.”

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

“He had a terrific offensive season last year in the USHL. He was an older player in this league,” Sweeney said. part of the offense, gives him an opportunity and a chance as a professional. We will work with him on the defensive part of the game. He was a forward in transition who returned to defense. We are going to teach him to play defensively and to use his offensive qualities and his hockey sense. I think he has a chance to be an NHL player. He has the attributes that definitely translate into the new style of play.”

Miller showed up to the Providence Bruins on Friday. It is not known when he will make his debut with 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 his teammates, and really everywhere in society, to get a second chance.”

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