One former UND hockey player said on his podcast UND should cut ties with incoming freshman defenseman Mitchell Miller after an article in the Arizona Republic detailed incidents of assault, bullying and racism that happened while he was in eighth grade.
Brad Miller, who played hockey at UND for four years from 2005-09 and is now in his 11th season of pro hockey, hosts the Morning Bagger podcast that runs a couple times a week and often includes former NHL players.
On Tuesday morning, Brad gave his thoughts on Mitchell (no relation), who admitted in juvenile court as a 14-year-old to an incident where he tricked an African American classmate with developmental disabilities to lick a candy push pop that had been wiped in a urinal. The article also stated that Mitchell used the N-word and other racist attacks toward the boy.
Mitchell admitted using racist terms in a letter to NHL teams that he sent before last month's draft and said he's a different person than he was four years ago. The Arizona Coyotes picked him in the fourth round.
UND released a statement Monday that said: "We made a decision that our program could provide him the necessary infrastructure and culture to hone not only his hockey abilities but most importantly, assist him in his continuing growth as a human being which will last him the remainder of his life."
Brad Miller, speaking alone on his podcast Tuesday, went into depth on the situation.
"I do think everybody deserves a second chance in life," Brad said. "I really do. He was young when all this stuff happened, I get that, but you're old enough to know right from wrong at 14 years old. If you're bullying a handicapped kid when you're 14 years old, and something in your head doesn't click that this isn't right, I don't think you're ever going to figure it out.
"Do I think he needs to be banished from society and sent to the moon and left there until the end of time? No. Do I think he forfeits his right to get a college scholarship at the University of North Dakota? Yes. Do I think he forfeits his right to play in the NHL? Yes."
Brad said he's not in favor of "canceling" people for every little mistake, but said this situation is not an example of that.
"I don't think one thing should define the way your life goes, but I do think there are consequences to actions," Brad said. "Are we just going to cancel someone every time they make a mistake? I hate that. I hate the way the world is right now. I hate it. People are canceling everything for the smallest little things. But this is not that. This is not that. He didn't get caught throwing a plastic bottle out on the Interstate. It's different.
"Hockey. . . I thought everyone was on the same page. We need to eliminate this (stuff) from hockey. We need to eliminate people who think this way."
Brad said that character was constantly emphasized at UND.
"The people who run the UND hockey program are incredible people," he said. "I would trust them with my life."
He said when the school brought recruits in, the staff would ask the players for feedback on a potential recruit
"It was always harped on the players, when you're there on campus and part of the team, you better be a standup person in the community," he said. "You treat people fairly. You treat people nicely. You treat people the way you want to be treated.
"When recruits come to town, and the team takes them out, the first thing the coaches ask you the next day is, 'What was he like? Is he a North Dakota type of guy?' Sometimes you say, 'Yes, he's of us, he'll fit right in.' Sometimes, you say, 'no.' He may be the top recruit in the country, and you say, 'No, the only time he would help us is during a game, otherwise he's going to be a cancer.'"
"It was harped on every player who has rolled through the program in however long it's been."
Brad admitted that he wasn't perfect at that age and made mistakes and received second chances, but that age 14 is old enough to know right from wrong.
"We're not talking about stealing someone's lunch money," Brad said. "This isn't it. This isn't that. You're dealing with the N-word and other racial terms."
Former NHLer Akim Aliu, one of the co-founders of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, tweeted a link to the Mitchell story and said: "Y'all read this and tell me hockey doesn't have major problems. No one else will say it, but I will. A Black, or player of color would NEVER get a pass or be forgiven for something like this. EVER!"
Brad agreed with that.
"What if this was reversed and the prospect was a Black kid and he was bullying a handicapped white kid and this came out?" Brad asked. "Does he get drafted in the fourth round? Does he have a full ride to UND? I doubt it. It just makes you think, we have so far to come with racism and bullying. There's been horrible, horrible stories with bullying and hazing for years and years and years. It seems like you take one step forward and two steps back."
Near the end of the podcast, Brad re-stated his main point.
"I think he should be able to go on and live a good life, make up for what he's done, go and get an education and find a job," Brad said. "I just don't think it should be hockey. I don't think he should have the right to play professional hockey when that's the exact thing we're trying to get rid of."