Mitchell Miller, 20, was signed to the Bruins on Friday and is reportedly ineligible to play in the professional league, according to its commissioner.
Mr Miller had been assigned to play for the Providence Bruins, which is Boston’s American Hockey League affiliate team.
The New York Times reports that Bruins players and the commissioner of the NHL have both expressed their disapproval of the deal.
"It’s not something anyone in this room stands for," Bruins forward Nick Foligno told reporters during a morning press conference on Saturday. "The culture we’ve built and these guys have built before I got here is one of inclusion. I think it goes against that," he said.
Foligno said the signing was "hard for us to swallow."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters on Saturday that the Bruins had not consulted the league before making their decision to sign Mr Miller. He said Mr Miller was ineligible to play in the NHL, and if the Bruins ever intended to promote him from the AHL, they would have to seek the league’s endorsement.
"What I understand and have heard through the media, what he did as a 14-year-old is reprehensible, unacceptable" Mr Bettman said. "They were free to sign him to play somewhere else, that’s another league’s issue. But nobody should think, at this point he is, or may ever be, NHL eligible. And the Bruins understand that now."
In 2016, when Mr Miller was 14, he pleaded guilty to a count of assault and one count of violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act. According to court records, Mr Miller and another teenager were bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a Black peer with developmental challenges. The teens forced Isaiah to eat candy they had wiped in a bathroom urinal and also beat him and used racial slurs against him.
Prior to the 2020 draft, Mr Miller sent written apologies to each of the NHL teams, but did not send one to the victim of his bullying. The Bruins claim he did not offer an apology to the victim until they asked him to do so, which he did on social media, per the Times.
Mr Meyer-Crothers’ mother, Joni, told the publication that the other teen involved in the bullying had visited Isaiah in person and offered a tearful apology for his actions when they were in high school.
Mr Miller was eventually drafted by the Arizona Coyotes, but reporting in the Arizona Republic about his past — in which the victim claimed the abuse occurred over a period of years — resulted in the team renouncing his rights.
The hockey player released a statement on Friday apologising for a single instance of bullying.
"When I was in eighth grade, I made an extremely poor decision and acted very immaturely," the statement said. "I bullied one of my classmates. I deeply regret the incident and have apologised to the individual. Since the incident, I have come to better understand the far-reaching consequences of my actions that I failed to recognize and understand nearly seven years ago."
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