Perhaps you’ve heard about Mitchell Miller, a talented National Hockey League-class defenceman … who will very likely never play a single game in the NHL.
This state of affairs has nothing to do with a contract dispute or a career-ending injury, but rather, something Miller did when he was, as the saying goes, younger and dumber.
Now, if you’re not a sports fan, don’t fret, for the following is not a hockey commentary nor a commentary on any professional sport. No, this is a rant about second chances; who gets them, who doesn’t, and why.
So back to the 20-year-old Miller. He was originally the property of the Arizona Coyotes who drafted him in 2020. But Arizona took a pass on the 20-year-old when the club learned about his unsavory past. Miller was recently acquired by the Boston Bruins who signed Miller to an entry-level contract; however, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stepped in and declared that Miller is not eligible to play in the National Hockey League, thereby forcing Boston to rescind their contract with the defenceman earlier this month
So, why is it that Miller seems to be so toxic?
Well, it goes back some six years ago when he was still in high school. 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 another student, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers eat a candy push pop after wiping it in a bathroom urinal. Surveillance video showed them kicking and punching Meyer-Crothers.
And this was apparently not an isolated incident. Meyer-Crothers's mother, Joni, told The Arizona Republic that Miller started bullying her son in second grade. That included physical abuse as well as the use of racial slurs. Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, it should be noted, is black and he suffers from developmental disabilities.
While Miller sent a letter to all 31 NHL teams acknowledging what happened and apologized for his behaviour, his mother claims Miller never personally apologized to Isaiah or their family.
Now first things first: What Miller did to Meyer-Crothers was despicable and truly beyond the pale. He physically assaulted Isaiah, forced him to eat a contaminated foodstuff and repeatedly call him the N-word … It is equal parts saddening and infuriating that this sort of behaviour can still exist today. Really, what the hell was Miller thinking?
In the aftermath of the Bruins signing and then un-signing Miller, Boston Bruins president Cam Neely said in a statement that the organization originally thought Miller's bullying of Isaiah Meyer-Crothers was an isolated incident. However, the club reversed course based on new information.
Indeed, the team is now in damage control mode. Recently, the Bruins hired a law firm led by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to review their player vetting process to make certain they never sign someone like Mitchell Miller again.
As for Miller’s future, at least when it comes to playing professional hockey in North America, things look grim. Just too much baggage. And while many observers in the mainstream media are downright giddy over what appears to be the permanent cancellation of Miller’s professional hockey career, forgive me for saying that I do not subscribe to this cancel culture chorus.
Again, I want to make it clear that Miller’s behaviour as a teenager disgusts me. I also want to make it clear that I have great empathy in my heart for Isaiah Meyer-Crothers. I say this because I know what it’s like to be bullied. Back in 1975, I attended Grade 8 in a new school in a different province and I endured a year of physical and verbal hell simply because I was that proverbial new kid in town without a single friend. That year remains perhaps the worst year I have experienced in my entire life.
But back to the Mitchell Miller/Isaiah Meyer-Crothers saga. The more I read into it, the more I pondered if there is not another remedy here other than permanent cancellation, that there is not some sort of compromise in the offing that might result in a win-win solution for both Isaiah and Mitchell?
After all, even in the criminal justice system, second chances abound – even when it comes to the worst sin of all, namely, someone intentionally taking the life of another. Indeed, in our great Dominion, unless one is deemed to be a dangerous offender – which is very rare – one is given a second chance to taste freedom after 25 years of incarceration.
And if any organization should know about second chances and ultimate sins, surely it is the Boston Bruins hockey club.
I speak specifically of Craig MacTavish. MacTavish was drafted in 1978 by the Bruins and played two full seasons for the club. MacTavish is known for being the last player in the NHL to play without a helmet. But he’s also known for something else: For a 12-month period, he never played any hockey games at all. That’s because MacTavish was doing prison time given that he was found guilty of vehicular homicide.
On the night of January 25, 1984, in Peabody, Massachusetts, MacTavish was behind the wheel of a car and was also under the influence of alcohol. He would collide with another car driven by 26-year-old Kim Radley of West Newfield, Maine. Radley would die in hospital four days later due to the injuries she sustained in the crash; MacTavish would eventually be sentenced to a year's imprisonment.
I would argue that his sentence was a joke. But nevertheless, after paying his debt to society, was Craig MacTavish cancelled by the NHL? Oh, hardly. He enjoyed a splendid playing career lasting almost two decades. He played for a total of five NHL clubs and actually got to hoist the Stanley Cup in 1994 as a member of the New York Rangers.
And when his playing days ended, MacTavish also enjoyed a lucrative career in the NHL as a coach and then as a general manager.
Indeed, prior to being convicted for the death of Radley, the Bruins did not condemn MacTavish, but rather, embraced him.
Immediately after the accident, MacTavish did not play in the Bruins' next two games due to a shoulder injury thanks to the collision and – get this – due to “emotional distress.” The Bruins General Manager at the time, Harry Sinden said MacTavish's status with the team was unchanged.
"He's still a full-fledged member of the team. Like any injured player who is injured in mind or body, we won't use him until he's ready to play and right now he's in no state of mind to play.”
While Sinden was making this pronouncement, Kim Radley was in no state of mind to do anything: she was in a coma, fighting for her life in hospital, until she eventually succumbed to her injuries.
But the crux of the matter is this: Craig MacTavish paid his debt to society (if you can call a one-year prison sentence a debt for taking a life) and then was given a second chance by both society and the National Hockey League. It should be noted that Kim Radley, mowed down in the prime of life by the drunken MacTavish, never received a second chance. Kim Radley would be 64 today. Maybe she’d be a mother, perhaps even a grandmother. But she was killed, some would say murdered. Surely her friends and surviving family members still mourn Kim Radley, whose only sin on January 25, 1984, was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But how times have changed vis-à-vis the Mitchell Miller saga. Indeed, it’s been noted in media reports that Boston opting to sign Miller did not go over well with many of the team’s players, including captain Patrice Bergeron, who stated the following:
"The culture that we built here goes against that type of behavior. In this locker room, we're all about inclusion, diversity, respect."
How odd. A drunken driver who took a life fits into the “inclusion, diversity and respect” mantra of the Boston Bruins hockey club… but a prospect who was a bully in his younger years is forever cast out? Fascinating…
Perhaps Miller’s biggest misfortune is that he is an American as opposed to a Canadian. In this country, thanks to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, if someone commits the most heinous crime imaginable, as long as that person is one day younger than 18, his identity will remain forever hidden. That is not the case south of the border.
And even when one is older than 18 and is publicly outed for their crime, our nation seems to be all about giving the most despicable people second chances.
Case in point: serial killer Karla Homolka. Thanks to the incompetence of the Niagara Regional Police Service, she is a free woman who now resides in the Montreal area. Along with her husband Paal Bernardo, she was complicit in the deaths of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French and even her younger sister, Tammy Homolka. But life goes on thanks to Homolka essentially getting off scot-free on a technicality. At the time, Homolka’s plea deal was described as a “deal with the devil”, but nevertheless, after a few years in the slammer, Homolka got to skate on July 4, 2005 … Even though the presiding judge at the time cautioned that she STILL posed as a risk to the public-at-large.
And then there’s our very own homegrown al-Qaeda terrorist, Omar Khadr. He murdered an American ally and partially blinded another. He confessed to these crimes. And yet, after being released from Gitmo Bay, the Justin Trudeau Liberals thought Omar was deserving of a $10.5 million cheque in 2016 due to Omar essentially suffering from hurt feelings.
These days, not only is Omar Khadr living life high off the non-halal hog, but he gets invitations to speak at certain woke universities. And apparently the authorities routinely turn a blind eye to enforcing the no-fly list when it comes to this grenade enthusiast hoping aboard Air Canada flights. Hey, forgive and forget, eh?
Meanwhile, just what was the Liberals’ unspoken motivation behind that unnecessary and immoral 8-figure payoff to Omar? Were they trying to curry favour with the Islamofascist demographic in Canada? If so, mission accomplished, guys, because what a message that was sent: commit terrorism against out allies and not only will you NOT be punished but you might just get a Lotto 6/49 payoff. Wow. Please bring me the head of the man who coined the phrase, “Crime doesn’t pay, ” will you?
But then again, Justin Trudeau is a prime minister who has become accustomed to being the recipient of multiple second chances. He can repeatedly don blackface or grope a female reporter or commit numerous ethics code violations or lie through his teeth. But in the eyes of many – including too many members of the Media Party which he continues to fund with your money, of course – it’s no harm, no foul, and give him another chance already, will ya? He’ll do better next time. Seven years later, we’re still waiting for the proof in the pudding regarding that hollow promise…
Which brings me back to Mitchell Miller and the increasingly complicated matter of second chances and who gets them and who doesn’t. I think I may have a solution: How about the NHL gives Miller a second chance just as it did to Craig MacTavish, who committed a very more egregious sin.
And secondly, with an NHL contract under his belt, let’s compel Miller to make amends for his despicable past treatment of Isaiah. Which is to say, how about Miller enters into an agreement to pay Isaiah a percentage of his contract or a significant lump sum? He’s not legally bound to do so, of course, but from a moral and ethical standpoint, it would be the right thing to do. I think my solution is win-win: Miller moves on with his life as a professional hockey player while Isaiah is given reparations for all the cruelty he endured years ago at the hands of Miller. Is this really too much of an ask?
Or in 2022, in this day and age of political correctness and wokeism and Marxist mobsters tearing down statues with impunity, has the concept of a second chance – at least for certain offenders – gone by the wayside? If so, western society, which is continually under the ongoing tyranny of cancel culture, is all the poorer for it…
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