Bruins players, proud of culture in the dressing room, not supportive of Miller signing – Toronto Sun

Boston Bruins forward Pavel Zacha looks for a pass under pressure from Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly at Scotiabank Arena last night. Christopher Katsarov/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Boston Bruins forward Pavel Zacha looks for a pass under pressure from Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly at Scotiabank Arena last night. Christopher Katsarov/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The men who wear the Boston Bruins’ uniform aren’t happy about the team’s signing of Mitchell Miller.

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Good on them. 

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A day after the Bruins announced they had signed the defenceman to a three-year entry-level contract, the players, following their morning skate on Saturday at Scotiabank Arena, had their say.

The 20-year-old Miller, who racially bullied a Black disabled classmate in middle school and later pleaded guilty to one count of assault, was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020 but then had his draft status revoked.

“The culture we built here goes against that type of behaviour,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said. “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.

“My understanding is (Miller) is going to put in the work and development programs and community programs to better himself. It’s up to him to do that. It’s a hockey operations decision.

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“Hopefully, there is growth and change (in Miller). If it’s the same 14-year-old walking into this locker room, he would not be accepted and wanted and welcomed. 

“Our culture is not going to change. It’s something that I am proud of, something we have worked hard for and we don’t need to change that. The changes are from the individual himself.”

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Veteran forward Nick Foligno, like Bergeron a long-respected voice in the game, didn’t sugar-coat his feelings. 

“It’s tough, it’s a hard topic,” Foligno said. “The organization is not going to do something that would jeopardize (the team’s culture), but in saying that, it’s not something that anyone in this room stands for.

“It was a tough thing to hear for our group. I’m not going lie to you. 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.”

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Miller and another teenager were accused of making the victim, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, eat a candy push pop after wiping it in a bathroom urinal, and surveillance video showed them kicking and punching Meyer-Crothers. 

Meyer-Crothers’ mother, Joni, told The Arizona Republic that Miller started bullying her son in the second grade and used racial epithets. There never has been an apology from Miller, Joni Meyer-Crothers said, other than a court-ordered letter.

Miller had 83 points in 60 games for Tri-City of the United States Hockey League last season. That Miller get a “second chance” doesn’t really wash. 

Playing in the NHL is a privilege, not a right. If Miller needs a second chance in life, let him get it somewhere else. 

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Speaking in Finland, where the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets concluded their two-game set in the Global Series, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman didn’t sound pleased about the latest Bruins acquisition.

“We were not consulted (by the Bruins),” Bettman said. “(Miller) is not eligible at this point to come into the NHL. I can’t tell you that he will ever be eligible to come into the NHL. If they think they want him to play in the NHL … we’re going to have to clear him and his eligibility. Nobody should think at this point he is or may ever be NHL eligible. And the Bruins understand that.”

SALMING COMING

Maple Leafs legend Borje Salming, who is battling with ALS, has been given the green light to travel to Toronto for the Hockey Hall of Fame induction next weekend, media in Sweden reported on Saturday.

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Salming, who was inducted into the Hall in 1996, will be coming to Toronto with his wife Pia and four daughters. Diagnosed with ALS in the summer, the 71-year-old Salming has lost the ability to speak and swallow, and the extent of his participation in the Hall festivities will depend on his health.

The trip also will allow Salming to get medicine in Toronto and take it back to Sweden with him, Expressen reported.

In the player category, Daniel Alfredsson, twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Roberto Luongo and Riikka Sallinen will be inducted. Herb Carnegie will be inducted in the builder category. 

LOOSE LEAFS

With Hockey Fights Cancer the theme on Saturday, Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe acknowledged the personal tie to the club. “It hits a little bit differently this year with our connection to (2020 first-round pick) Rodion Amirov and his fight (with a brain tumour) that he is in,” Keefe said. Keefe had no update on Amirov, other than that the 21-year-old has returned to Russia after spending time with the Leafs. Will Amirov play this season? “He has a big fight on his hands here,” Keefe said … Leafs captain John Tavares on Bergeron, who continues to be among the top players in the NHL at the age of 37: “For a guy who is probably not known for his skating — I would not say he is a bad skater — he just doesn’t really have to skate that hard because he knows where to always be, with and without he puck. That knowledge allows him to be ahead of the game, ahead of the next play.” … Erik Kallgren, slated to start in Carolina against the Hurricanes on Sunday, beat the ’Canes in his only previous game against them. That came this past March 17 when Kallgren made 34 saves in a 3-2 Leafs win in Toronto.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

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