Bruins president Cam Neely spoke to the media on Monday, 12 hours after the team announced it was cutting ties with Mitchell Miller.
Miller, a 20-year-old defenseman, admitted to bullying and racially abusing Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a Black developmentally disabled classmate, for several years.
Here are the key takeaways:
Neely said this was his biggest regret
Neely called the situation his biggest regret “by far” as a Bruins executive. Among the many significant mistakes in the vetting and signing of Miller, the chief issue was that “we didn’t talk to the family,” Neely said.
”We dropped the ball,” Neely said, “and I’m here to apologize for that.”
Why didn’t they? “It’s a great question.”
Neely apologized to Meyer-Crothers in his statement on Sunday night, and said he would be reaching out to the family.
When asked if he assumed that the team had spoke with the Meyer-Crouthers family, Neely said he “shouldn’t assume anything.”
Who was in charge of the vetting?
Neely said it was a failing of the Bruins’ hockey operations department that it did not discover the extent of Miller’s abhorrent abuse of Meyer-Crothers. They believed, Neely said, that Miller had made a singular mistake when he was 14, and had done work to better himself.
Neely was light on specifics about that work.
“From everything I’ve heard, he was working on himself, working in programs to better himself,” Neely said of the “new information” the team cited when cutting ties with Miller. “I was under the impression it 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 he, in the last six years, had done a lot of work on himself.”
Neely was asked about what his scouts thought of Miller.
“From a hockey standpoint, the scouts think he’s a player that can play,” he said. “From a character standpoint, that’s where we failed.”
Scouts said they thought Miller had grown since the incident, and Neely said that he believes in second chances.
“I do believe in second chances but maybe some don’t deserve it,” he said. “I’m not saying it in particular in this situation, but I do believe in second chances.”
Neely also said he was under the impression that Miller would need to speak directly to commissioner Gary Bettman in order to be cleared to play in the NHL.
Neely wouldn’t say if there would be punishments or penalties for anyone in the organization.
“I’ve got more work to do.”
Was Neely worried about another team swooping in to sign Miller?
A number of teams had approached Miller with an interest in signing him, a source told the Globe. Miller said Friday that the Bruins offered him the best “resources,” after he sat down with management and “opened up about what I did and want to do moving forward.”
Neely said competition was not a factor.
“From my perspective, there was no urgency and there was no pressure,” Neely said. “I didn’t care about other teams.”
So why did Neely sign off?
“It was a decision we didn’t take lightly, I felt that based on everything I knew, he deserved a second chance.”
Why would the Bruins sign Miller when they’re the hottest team in the league?
“The timing was never going to be good,” Neely said. “It got down to are we doing it or not, and we made the wrong decision.”
Did Neely speak with Miller?
Neely did not talk directly to Miller about the decision to cut him.
He said that before Miller signed, he had a meeting with Miller, Miller’s mother, and Miller’s agent, Eustace King.
“I felt that he was remorseful, I felt that he had changed, that this particular time a second chance was warranted.
What changed between then and Sunday night?
“We didn’t have enough information,” Neely said. “We could have dug deeper.”
On the timeline
On Friday, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said that they had been working with Miller for six months.
Neely said that the possibility of the team signing Miller “was brought to my attention in early August.
“... We said if we’re going to do this, we want to make sure he’s in the right programs and understands the values that we have with diversity and inclusion.”
On team ownership’s role
Neely said Charlie and Jeremy Jacobs were made aware that the team needed to cut ties with Miller, but that it was a decision that came from the hockey operations team.
“There’s a lot of people that are let down today and I’m disappointed that we’re in this position,” Neely said. “We shouldn’t be in this position, we could have done a better job. We should have done a better job.”
On the response from Bruins players
Neely was asked if the statements from current Bruins players weighed on him.
“There was a lot of factors in this decision,” he said, “and that was one of them.”
Captain Patrice Bergeron said on Saturday he was consulted by the Bruins about a week ago.
“I had my concerns,” Bergeron said. “I shared my opinion. In a way, I think I was not necessarily agreeing with it — to be honest with you, I think the culture that we’ve built here goes against that type of behavior. I think we are a team built on character and with character individuals. What he did, obviously is unacceptable. We don’t stand by that.”
Bergeron said he would want evidence of “growth and change” from Miller before he entered the room.
“Truthfully, if it’s the same 14-year-old that would be walking into this locker room,” said Bergeron, “he wouldn’t be accepted and wanted and welcomed, to be honest with you.”
Neely said he and Sweeney spoke with the club on Saturday.
What’s the message to Bruins fans?
“I’m extremely upset that we have made a lot of people unhappy with our decision,” Neely said. “I take pride in the Bruins organization and what we stand for and we failed there.”