Gary Bettman: Bruins signee Mitchell Miller 'not eligible'

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday the Boston Bruins did not consult the league before signing Mitchell Miller and that he would "need to see a whole bunch of things" going forward.

Bettman's comments came a day after the Bruins announced they signed Miller, a prospect defenseman, to an entry-level contract. Miller was a fourth-round pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020 until his draft rights were relinquished after a story was published about how he and another classmate were convicted of assaulting and bullying a Black developmentally disabled classmate.

The report revealed how Miller, now 20, and another middle school classmate were convicted in juvenile court in 2016 for racially abusing and bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers. In the report, Meyer-Crothers' mother alleged Miller began abusing her son in second grade and repeatedly used racist slurs.

Bettman said what he had heard anecdotally and understood through media reports about what Miller did was "reprehensible, unacceptable." He said the Bruins did not consult the league but he has since spoken with team president Cam Neely.

"He's not coming into the NHL, he's not eligible at this point to come into the NHL," Bettman said. "I can't tell you that he'll ever be eligible to come into the NHL. If in fact at some point they think they want him to play in the NHL -- and I'm not sure they're anywhere close to that point -- we're going to have to clear him and his eligibility, and it'll be based on all the information that we get firsthand at the time."

Bettman said the Bruins were free to sign Miller to play somewhere else, a reference to the fact that Miller was sent to play for the Bruins' AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. But then he added that, "nobody should think at this point he is or may ever be NHL eligible and the Bruins understand that now."

An NHL Players Association source, however, told ESPN Saturday that the NHL has not informed them about any suspension for Miller or any other action that would impact his eligibility to play in the League. The NHLPA is aware of Bettman's comments and intends to reach out to the NHL because "there needs to be more information provided by the League" on Miller's status.

When asked about Bettman's comments regarding Miller's eligibility, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski that Bettman "wouldn't rule on eligibility without a hearing."

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Miller's contract has been registered with the NHL and that there was nothing official from the league that would have prevented any team from signing him.

Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, forward Nick Foligno and coach Jim Montgomery addressed the situation with Miller following morning skate in Toronto ahead of their game against the Maple Leafs.

"The culture we built here goes against that type of behavior," Bergeron told reporters. "We're a team built with character and character people. What he did is unacceptable, and we don't stand by that. In this locker room, we are all about inclusion, diversity, respect. Those are key words and core values that we have.

"We expect guys to wear this jersey to be high-character people with integrity and respect. Hopefully there is growth and change."

Bergeron said if Miller is the same person he was as the 14-year-old who bullied Meyer-Crothers, that "he would not be accepted and wanted and welcomed." He said the Bruins' culture is not going to change and the changes "are from the individual himself."

Foligno said it was "a tough thing" for the team to hear after learning the Bruins had signed Miller.

"I'm not going lie to you," Foligno said. "I don't think any guy was too happy because of how proud we are to say that this is a group that cares a lot about ourselves and how we carry ourselves and how we treat people."

Montgomery, who is in his first season with the team, said he does not know Miller but added what he did was "a reprehensible act" and that it is up to Miller to show everyone that he is doing the right things going forward.

ESPN's Kristen Shilton contributed to this report