Cam Neely addresses Mitchell Miller situation: 'I'm extremely upset' originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
On Monday, Bruins president Cam Neely held a press conference to answer for the organization's original decision and abrupt about-face.
"I'm extremely upset that we have made a lot of people unhappy with our decision," Neely told reporters. "I take pride in the Bruins organization and what we stand for, and we failed that."
Miller was convicted in juvenile court of bullying a Black classmate with developmental disabilities in 2016 when he was 14 years old. The Arizona Coyotes drafted Miller in 2020 but renounced his draft rights after an Arizona Republic investigation revealed ugly details of how Miller and a classmate repeatedly bullied another classmate, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers.
Neely said multiple times Monday he believes in second chances, and that the organization felt Mitchell deserved one after meeting with him and his mother.
"From everything I heard, he was working on himself, working in programs to better himself," Neely said of Mitchell. "I was under the impression he was a 14-year-old kid who made a really, really bad decision and did some horrible things. And he's 20 years old now, so I was under the impression that in the last six years he had done a lot of work on himself."
Neely said in a statement Sunday that the Bruins parted ways with Mitchell based on "new information." When asked what that new information was Monday, Neely expressed remorse that the team didn't speak with Meyer-Crothers or his family before signing Mitchell.
"We didn't have enough information. We could have dug deeper," Neely said. "We didn't talk to the family. We should have talked to the family."
Mitchell's signing Friday drew immediate backlash from fans, and several players -- including captain Patrice Bergeron -- said they didn't agree with the Bruins' decision to sign him. The B's faced more criticism after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he was "not consulted" about the Bruins signing Mitchell and that Mitchell isn't even eligible to play in the NHL.
Neely told reporters that the Bruins talked to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly about signing Mitchell last Wednesday, but it appears word may not have reached Bettman. Neely also admitted that fan backlash factored into Boston's decision to release Mitchell and suggested the team wasn't prepared for this level of blowback.
"It was a combination of everything," Neely said. "Certainly our fanbase being upset, and rightfully so. And for me it was not worth putting the organization through this any longer."
The past few days have been an incredibly bad look for the Bruins, who forced Meyer-Crothers and his family to relive past traumas. Neely said the team will re-evaluate its vetting process and hinted that the Bruins may make some internal changes as a result.
"There's a lot of people who are let down today," Neely said. "I'm disappointed that we're in this position. We shouldn't be in this position. We could have done a better job; we should have done a better job.
"I've got more work to do."