Eustace King, the agent for Mitchell Miller, told the Cam & Strick podcast published on Tuesday that he had meetings with the Boston Bruins ownership and other NHL teams about signing his client, and “everyone knew the risks they were taking.”
“Everyone knew what was at stake, everyone knew the risks they were taking, everyone knew everything,” King told co-host Andy Strickland. “Nothing has come up or resurfaced that has been different from everything that you’ve seen before. And that’s why I put a timeline together because I have not been able to find any new information or new accounts that have happened.”
King’s account seems to contradict what Bruins team president Cam Neely said on Sunday when the team cut ties with Miller. Neely said in a statement the Bruins thought Miller’s bullying of Isaiah Meyer-Crothers was an isolated incident and reversed course based on new information.
During a media conference on Monday, Neely apologized for the mistake, saying “we dropped the ball” by not speaking with the Meyer-Crothers family before signing Miller.
“Initially, I was thinking it was going to be, ‘OK, this kid deserves a second chance.’ I thought there would be some people that were going to be upset about it. But to the extent of this, I misread that,” Neely added.
“So, we could’ve done a better job. We should’ve done a better job.”
King added that he had meetings with several NHL teams over the summer about signing Miller, to acknowledge the wrongdoing and apprise the teams of his client’s rehabilitation timeline. But King wasn’t sure what the future now held for the young prospect.
“I’m actually just trying to make sure that I tell the story of what happened,” he said. “Ultimately, whatever happens moving forward happens, but I want to make sure that everyone understands the story and why I decided to work with him.”
The Bruins on Sunday rescinded their contract offer to Miller, who previously had his draft rights relinquished by the Arizona Coyotes for bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a Black former middle school classmate with developmental disabilities.
The team signed Miller to an entry-level contract Friday, prompting criticism from players and comments from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that the 20-year-old would not currently be eligible to play in the league.
King also told Strickland that he spoke with the NHL before taking Miller on as a client as part of his “due diligence” to find out if the player was suspended.
Boston opting to sign Miller did not go over well with Bruins players. Captain Patrice Bergeron said he was consulted about the possibility and was “on the fence.”
“The culture that we built here goes against that type of behavior,” Bergeron said. “In this locker room, we’re all about inclusion, diversity, respect.”
Boston forward Nick Foligno called the signing “hard to swallow.”
“Tough thing to hear for our group,” he said. “I’m not gonna lie to you. I don’t think any guy was too happy.”
King said Miller had been skating with some of the Bruins to stay in shape.
“I’m sure some of the players had their suspicions and wanted to know but again, you know, their job is to play hockey,” King said. “Their jobs aren’t to commentate on all this social activism stuff.”
The Coyotes picked Miller in the fourth round of the 2020 draft despite knowing of his 2016 assault conviction. The team parted ways with Miller amid criticism after learning more about the bullying.
The University of North Dakota announced a day later that Miller was no longer with the school’s hockey team.
Miller pleaded guilty at age 14 to one count of assault and one count of violation of the Ohio Safe Schools Act. He and another teenager were accused of making Meyer-Crothers eat a candy push pop after wiping it in a bathroom urinal, and surveillance video showed them kicking and punching him.
Meyer-Crothers’ mother Joni told the Arizona Republic that Miller started bullying her son in Grade 2 and used racial epithets.
Ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft, Miller sent a letter to all 31 teams acknowledging what happened and apologizing for his behaviour. Joni Meyer-Crothers said Miller never personally apologized to Isaiah or their family other than a court-mandated letter.
King told Strickland that Miller had connected with Isaiah Meyer-Crothers and the two were coordinating a meeting, ostensibly for Miller to apologize in person. According to King, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers now lives in Detroit and recently had a daughter.
Miller sat out the 2020-21 season before scoring 39 goals with 44 assists for Tri-City of the USHL in 2021-22. He was named the USHL’s player and defenseman of the year after setting league records for goals and points by a defenseman.
— With files from The Associated Press