Mitchell Miller signing highlights importance of player power

Bruins Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Nick Foligno have received praise for expressing their discomfort with their team's signing of Mitchell Miller. However, the embarrassing episode underlines the need for more NHL players to use their platform to speak out, even when it goes against their own team's on-ice interests.

Video Transcript

JULIAN MCKENZIE: The reactions from Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand, and Nick Foligno just generally you can give praise to the-- to as much as members of the Bruins as you want. That I thought was very surprising to me because I'm conditioned to seeing guys come in and players would be like, oh, we'll give him a chance. We'll find a way to make him fit in our locker room.

Those guys dug in and said, like, this guy isn't a fit in our locker room. He's going to have to earn being in that locker room. That is a sign of a really good room. I already underestimated the Boston Bruins for how good they're going to be this year.

I had no idea what the culture was like until they had to respond to that situation. And I'll give them-- I'll give them props for this. The way they handled that, it might be damn near unprecedented for what we're used to seeing from NHL players on that type of stuff.

OMAR: Absolutely. Like, when it comes to like-- we've seen it time and time again. The minute you sign that contract and you're called up and you're in that locker room, it's just like, OK, well, you're one of us.

And you know, frickin' what happens in the room stays in the room and all that type of stuff. And also like whether, however, you want to say it, like, it's also players like directly criticizing a move that management has made on the moral stance, stance of it.

You know, and again, like to Julian's point, when they're going to start bringing players out and talking about it, I was like, oh, god, here we go. We're going to get all these freaking cliches. Then people are going to say, see, it's no big deal.

But I was genuinely surprised. Like Nick Foligno, what Nick Foligno said, I was genuinely surprised that-- generally surprised at. And I don't know. I don't know if that gives hope or whatever. But yeah, it is one of few times I think the players were very honest, for the right reason.

And again, I know I'm not going to like praise them for it because I think that's something that everyone should be doing regardless. But considering the fact that hockey is what it is. Like, yeah, it was-- I think it was huge. And I think it definitely factored into how Boston reacted in the sense of refurbishing the contract.

The fact that not only are fans upset and media talking about it, but like, the key players, like Patrice Bergeron your captain is saying, no. No, none of that. So yeah, you have to give it up to them when it comes to that.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: We mentioned how hockey culture has to change and has to adapt. That's a step right there. Players like that, players with power and influence going on camera and being quite blunt and saying, listen, you are not welcome. You are not welcome in our locker room.

You are not going to affect our chemistry, affect our locker room, our key points in wanting to be diverse and inclusive. You do not aid that. And like you said, we need more-- and we need more players like Patrice Bergeron and like other players in that Bruins locker room, and Nick Foligno, to be vocal about that.

Your voice has impact. You are-- you play in the highest hockey league in the world. That things you say have impact. So if you're saying, he's not welcome, it ripples down to other teams, other leagues.

And I don't care what [INAUDIBLE] was, I would want the exact same thing to come from other players. But what Boston did showed me that, hey, that's how you move hockey culture forward when guys like this are blunt and open and say, this cannot continue. You are not welcome in our dressing room.

SAM CHANG: I-- sorry. I'm trying to figure out how to say this. I think that it made a difference that they said that publicly. I will say, I think that I'm not-- I'm not as convinced that those comments were that direct or that blunt. I think they seem direct and blunt, and like a pushback against the organization relative to every other hockey player who has ever commented on these kinds of things. And so in that sense, yes, they set a precedent and it is an improvement, but also the bar is on the ground.

OMAR: That's fair.

SAM CHANG: The bar is under the ground.


AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: The bar is in hell.

SAM CHANG: So like, yeah, it's great, it's great. But even then, like, I think-- I think Bergeron said as much as he felt he could say. But it wasn't like, we told them no. It was like, I was on the fence, right? Like, it wasn't like, this was a bad decision.

And to me the thing that stood out was Cam Neely said that Foligno's and Bergeron's comments on Saturday influenced their decision to cut him on Sunday. So what were their comments before Saturday? Like, did they just-- did the Bruins just never ask them? Did they just discuss as a locker room, but not tell management, this is a bad idea?

Like, what was the totality of the circumstances there? Like, did he wait until he was sitting down with Elliott to say, oh, actually, I was on the fence? Like, I don't-- I don't actually know what happened there. I think it's good that they gave some pushback.

But also I mean, the thing that I keep coming back to with the Bergeron interview is the timing of it came on SportsNet right after they announced the signing. When did they film that? There was clearly like-- it was clearly preplanned. The Bruins clearly thought this out and were like, hey, we're going to need him to address this. Like, what is happening here?

What was the thought process behind every step of, like, we're going to announce this and say it was really hard, then we're going to put Patrice Bergeron in a boardroom with Elliot Friedman and have this, like, interview that was framed as like, we were on the fence, but like, yeah, he's going to have to earn his way here? Like, it was all priming the pump for people to be OK with him playing.