Miller was convicted of bullying a developmentally disabled African American classmate when he was 14 years old. (Full details can be found here, but I warn you: it’s graphic and disgusting). This information was well-known by all NHL clubs prior to the draft. Several took Miller completely off their draft lists. Yet the Coyotes selected Miller anyway with the team’s first selection in this year’s draft.
The victim, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, had the mental ability of a 10-year-old at the time according to his mother.
Aside: Arizona’s first pick in this year’s draft wasn’t until the fourth round. The team had already been docked its 2020 second round draft pick and 2021 first round draft pick for scouting combine violations.
Defending The Decision
The Coyotes have been met with mounting criticism since making the selection, and at first attempted to defend it. Team president Xavier Gutierrez, who is part of the NHL’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, released a statement in the Arizona Republic that said:
“Our fundamental mission is to ensure a safe environment — whether in schools, in our community, in hockey rinks, or in the workplace — to be free of bullying and racism. When we first learned of Mitchell’s story, it would have been easy for us to dismiss him — many teams did. Instead, we felt it was our responsibility to be a part of the solution in a real way — not just saying and doing the right things ourselves but ensuring that others are too,” the statement said.
“Given our priorities on diversity and inclusion, we believe that we are in the best position to guide Mitchell into becoming a leader for this cause and preventing bullying and racism now and in the future. As an organization, we have made our expectations very clear to him. We are willing to work with Mitchell and put in the time, effort, and energy and provide him with the necessary resources and platform to confront bullying and racism. This isn’t a story about excuses or justifications. It’s a story about reflection, growth, and community impact. A true leader finds ways for every person to contribute to the solution. We all need to be a part of the solution.”
New GM Bill Armstong was unable to participate in the draft as part of his agreement with former employer the St. Louis Blues. Even though he did not select Miller, there was a statement issued from him as well saying:
“The Arizona Coyotes do not condone any type of bullying behavior. I was unable to participate in this year’s draft but prior to drafting Mitchell Miller, our scouts were made aware of his history and the bullying incident that occurred in 2016 when he was 14 years old,” Armstrong said.
“Mitchell sent a letter to every NHL team acknowledging what happened and apologizing for his behavior. Mitchell made a huge mistake, but we are providing him with a second chance to prove himself. We hope that he uses his platform moving forward to raise awareness about bullying and to discourage this type of behavior.”
Even North Dakota knew about the accusations before bringing him on board. UND head coach Brad Berry said he was aware of the incident before bringing Miller to campus in August. The school’s statement was close to what the Coyotes put out, saying UND “made a decision that our program could provide (Miller) the necessary infrastructure and culture to hone not only his hockey abilities but most importantly, assist him in his continuing growth as a human being which will last him the remainder of his life.”
The statements did nothing to quell the criticism.
The backlash has continued to grow from many sources, with several media outlets calling for the team to move on from Miller immediately. Now they have. But to me there are still a few points being lost completely here.
First is that Meyer-Crothers and his mother have said they would just like an apology from Miller. Miller claims he has done so, but Meyer-Crothers says he never has. Before anything else happens, this should happen. In person and privately. Don’t lose what happened here because it was terrible and should never happen again for so many reasons. Meyer-Crothers and his family deserve the respect of an in-person apology.
Second, Arizona is not the only team that would have drafted Miller – they’re just the ones that did. Several teams said they wouldn’t touch him, but not every team said that. Who knows how much farther he would have fallen but odds are someone would have picked him. So let’s not completely frame Arizona as being alone in this idea.
Third, I’m a believer in second (and third) chances, because goodness knows I’ve needed them and will continue to need them. I’m not perfect. But for Miller to ever really make it as a pro hockey player – if that’s something he still wants to do after all this – he is going to have to really get out in front of this. He has to do more than just send a letter to all 31 teams before the draft telling him how contrite he is. Miller has to put his time and energy into anti-bullying projects and organizations. Go through therapy. Outwardly show people that you are putting in the work to better yourself. Without all of that, I don’t know that Miller gets a chance or would earn one.
Finally, I’m sure the hockey world will be curious to see what North Dakota and Team USA do moving forward.
I will say this: Miller now has the ability to be an example and an instrument of change. The spotlight is on him and what he does going forward. One of the hardest things to do is take responsibility for your mistakes, own them and apologize. Some people will never forgive you. Others will. Miller needs to look in the mirror and make a tough decision. Ultimately, he could sow far more good from an absolutely horrible situation in the long run. At least we can hope.
Golden Knights Training Camp Day 2 In The Books
Yesterday was a very exciting day as the Vegas Golden Knights took to the ice for the first time in training camp. Day Two wasn’t nearly as exciting, but necessary as things moved forward. Here are a few key takeaways from today’s action.
As of now, Nick Holden remains on what I’ll pencil in as the 7/8 pair with Dylan Coghlan. As I said yesterday don’t read too far into things because the Golden Knights are going to need eight solid D to make this season work. For the time being, it looks like Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague are going to get a chance to show what they can do as a unit. Alex Pietrangelo remained with Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore with Alec Martinez.
Today was more of a jumble of lines as some guys get a look playing up. Among them was Tomas Jurco who took the place of Max Pacioretty with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone. Jurco is a guy I love for the VGK because this season because he’s a vet who can slide into the lineup on a moment’s notice and play a variety of roles. Definitely a taxi squad guy who makes you feel better about your depth.
Also, Stephenson is still centering this line. I know many of you wonder if Cody Glass is going to get his shot at the 2C but not yet. Stephenson did look good today, generating a scoring chance off a stretch pass up the middle and showing some speed. He’s skating with confidence early in camp, and I would not be surprised to see him exactly where he is now come opening night.
Finally, it was nice to see Jonathan Marchessault score for the second straight day. If he warms those goal-scoring hands up early, it could be a tremendous campaign for him.
Keep your browser pointed here for more camp coverage!
Tom’s Daily: Handicapping the West Division; Stepan to Sens
Tom’s Daily: Looking at the West Division; Vegas Golden Knights prospect Brandon Kruseand his unusual senior season; Stepan sent to the Sens; VGK fans have a new streaming option this season.
The West Division should be a fun, competitive division this year. At least in the top half. Here’s NHL.com’s look at how things might shake out. (NHL.com)
Brandon Kruse is working his way through an unusual senior season at Bowling Green. The Golden Knights prospect is projeting better than a point-per-game so far on the ice. (NHL.com)
Derek Stepan was shipped to the Ottawa Senators from the Arizona Coyotes, giving the Sens more center depth and eating up a chunk of that free cap space they had. (Sportsnet)
Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be playing in the NHL this year. Or next year. (NHL.com)
Michael Del Zotto signs a pro tryout contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Expect a lot of fringe NHL guys who don’t have deals to be competing for jobs this year. (Sportsnet)
Five questions facing the Florida Panthers heading into training camp. This team could be really good. It could also not. (FloridaHockeyNow)
According to Larry Brooks from the New York Post, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the only major league sports team to receive a paycheck protection loan totaling $4.82M. (New York Post)
Longtime NHL player and executive Dave Poulin is writing for the Toronto Star. Here’s his debut piece. (Toronto Star)
Tom’s Daily: New VGK Schedule; Pacioretty, Lehner Busts?; NHL Breaking News
Tom’s Daily: Breaking NHL news! Plus the Vegas Golden Knights have a schedule and we break it down for you; Bolts find cap relief but it’s not good; more
Vegas Golden Knights
Just in case you missed it, the NHL schedule dropped yesterday and we broke it down for you here. (VHN)
Here’s the team/league release on the schedule as well. (NHL.com)
Breaking News: It looks like the NHL has permission to move forward in Canadian cities. That’s a major sigh of relief. (Sportsnet)
Whew! Gritty has been cleared to return to NHL games this season. (The Hill)
Nikita Kucherov is going to miss the regular season due to hip surgery. While the Lightning certainly don’t want to be without one of the best players in today’s game, it certainly helps their situation with his $9.5M cap hit moved to LTIR. (Tampa Bay Times)
Ryan Miller is back with the Anaheim Ducks on a one-year deal and I love it. I hope Miller, one of the nicest guys in the game, gets to his milestone of 400 wins. It won’t happen this season unless something goes crazy sideways, but he needs 13 more to do it. (ESPN)
The Arizona State University men’s hockey team decided to start the season with a monster 36-day road trip. My personal longest road trip was 18 days and that was a nightmare. I can’t imagine double that. As it turns out, the team wanted it this way. (ESPN)
Are you all fans of fantasy hockey content? I can post more of that type of stuff if you are, let me know in the comments. For now, I’m putting this in here because of Max Pacioretty’s featured status as a fantasy “bust” for this season. Oh, and add Robin Lehner too. Not sure I agree, but here you go. (CBS)