Coyotes are in hot water
The Arizona Coyotes are in hot water after drafting Mitchell Miller. CEO Xavier Gutierrez has some explaining to do. (Vance Sisk Photography)

The Arizona Coyotes are in hot water again. When general manager John Chayka quit right before the playoffs, fans knew all was not well with the organization.

Things have gone from bad to worse. When Chayka up and quit, they were going through a hearing with the NHL about breaking combine testing policy, and the outcome was not looking good. The possibility of a fine lingered, but instead, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hit them with the loss of draft picks. A second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and a first-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft made it clear this would not be tolerated.

This left the Coyotes without a draft pick in the first three rounds of the 2020 draft. With their first pick in round four, they chose Mitchell Miller. Reporting Craig Harris and Jose M. Romero at the Arizona Republic has shed some light on that pick. It’s not good and putting more of a spotlight on the Coyotes when they least want it. Miller was touted as a possible second or third-round pick, yet there was a perfect reason he was available at 111th for the Coyotes to pick.

According to Harris and Romero’s reporting, the right-shot defenseman, who has committed to the University of North Dakota, admitted to bullying a classmate in juvenile court four years ago. The victim was Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, who claimed Miller tricked him into licking a push pop that he and another kid urinated on and wiped in a urinal. This led to Meyer-Crothers having to be tested for Hepatitis, HIV, and STD’s. Miller also called Meyer-Crothers “brownie” and the “N-word” on several occasions. Meyer-Crothers suffers from developmental disabilities.

“He pretended to be my friend and made me do things I didn’t want to do. In junior high, I got beat up by him. Everyone thinks he’s so cool that he gets to go to the NHL, but I don’t see how someone can be cool when you pick on someone and bully someone your entire life.”

Meyer-Crothers told the Arizona Republic

The Arizona Coyotes recently hired Xavier Gutierrez as the first Hispanic CEO in the league. He, along with the Coyotes, released the following statement:

“Our fundamental mission is to ensure a safe environment — whether in schools, in our community, in hockey rinks, or the workplace — to be free of bullying and racism. When we first learned of Mitchell’s story, it would have been easy for us to dismiss him — many teams did.  Instead, we felt it was our responsibility to be a part of the solution in a real way — not just saying and doing the right things ourselves but ensuring that others are too. Given our priorities on diversity and inclusion, we believe that we are in the best position to guide Mitchell into becoming a leader for this cause and preventing bullying and racism now and in the future.  As an organization, we have made our expectations very clear to him. We are willing to work with Mitchell and put in the time, effort, and energy and provide him with the necessary resources and platform to confront bullying and racism. This isn’t a story about excuses or justifications.  It’s a story about reflection, growth, and community impact. A true leader finds ways for every person to contribute to the solution.  We all need to be a part of the solution.”

Arizona Coyotes Statement

JD Burke of the Elite Prospects website reflected on the pick during a Monday tweet.

New Coyotes General Manager Bill Armstrong, who had no input on the draft picks as part of his agreement with former team St Louis Blues, said in a statement:

“Mitchell sent a letter to every NHL team acknowledging what happened and apologizing for his behavior. Mitchell made a huge mistake, but we are providing him with a second chance to prove himself. We hope that he uses his platform moving forward to raise awareness about bullying and to discourage this type of behavior.”

However, Meyer-Crothers’ mother Joni told the reporters no members of the Coyotes organization contacted her or family members before the pick was made. She also says she didn’t receive an apology letter from Miller, which the Coyotes claim was sent.

“What they (Coyotes) are saying is what Mitchell did to him didn’t matter. They owe our son an apology. They are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. It was traumatizing for my kid, and he (Miller) has never shown remorse. But, I guess it’s okay to take him on your team. I struggle with that.”

Meyer-Crothers mother Joni speaking to the Arizona Republic

While the Coyotes are seemingly standing by their man right now, it’s hard to see them stay the course. The report is less than flattering, with Miller apparently lying to school officials at the time and never personally apologizing apart from a court-mandated letter. Many fourth-round draft picks don’t ever play an NHL game, and Miller may join them, but it remains a lousy draft move that puts Coyotes in hot water again. Especially given the vast amount of undrafted kids who have been upstanding citizens while honing their craft.

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