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NHL

You’re Allowed To Not Sign A Guy

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 21: View of a Boston Bruins logo on a jersey worn by a member of the team at warm-up before the Boston Bruins versus the Montreal Canadiens game on March 21, 2022 at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)
David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire

The Bruins are 10-1-0, the vibes are immaculate right now, and hey would you look at that, they’re all gone:

If the name Mitchell Miller rings any sort of bell, it’s not for anything good. The defenseman, now 20 years old, was drafted by the Coyotes in 2020 but quickly dropped by them and by his college team after the Arizona Republic reported that Miller had been convicted as a juvenile for assault for bullying a schoolmate. If the word “bullying” is vague, well, it’s some truly heinous shit:

Mr. Miller and another youth were accused of making Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, then 14, eat a lollipop after wiping it in a bathroom urinal. Surveillance video also showed the boys punching and kicking Isaiah, who has developmental disabilities. Mr. Meyer-Crothers told the Arizona Republic that Mr. Miller also called him racially derogatory names.

Toledo Blade

Meyer-Crothers, also 18 and who now lives in Detroit, said Miller had taunted him for years, constantly calling him “brownie” and the “N-word,” while repeatedly hitting him while growing up in the Toledo suburb. Other students at their junior high confirmed to police that Miller repeatedly used the “N-word” in referring to Meyer-Crothers. 

“He pretended to be my friend and made me do things I didn’t want to do,” Meyer-Crothers said in a phone interview. “In junior high, I got beat up by him. … Everyone thinks he’s so cool that he gets to go to the NHL, but I don’t see how someone can be cool when you pick on someone and bully someone your entire life.”

Arizona Republic

The Coyotes, when they renounced Miller’s draft rights, claimed this all came as news to them. The Bruins cannot claim the same, and their announcement of Miller’s signing opens with his apology. They’re not hiding from it, but also they’re not exactly pretending like it mattered to them. Here’s GM Don Sweeney this afternoon:

I am sympathetic to the idea that no one should be punished forever for something they do as a teen. But I also believe that “not playing in the NHL” is not actually a punishment. It’s the normal state of things.

You can always, always just … not sign a guy. It’s startlingly easy to not sign a guy. Even if you think another team is going to sign him, you can still not. Lots of teams have managed and continue to manage to not sign guys, almost every day! The Bruins could have gone about their business, and not signed Miller. That would have taken them less time and effort than signing him. A team is not punishing Miller by not signing him, but they are rewarding and functionally absolving him by signing him. And if they want to deliver the old saw about wanting to help him grow as a person: If his apology is sincere, then he shouldn’t need their help in that, now should he?

Congratulations to all the teams that somehow managed to not sign Miller, even the ones who didn’t realize they weren’t doing it.