Flames head coach Bill Peters is under investigation after a former player accused him of using a racial slur during an interaction years ago.
The player in question, Akim Aliu, played for Peters with the Rockford IceHogs — the Chicago Blackhawks’ minor league affiliate — during the 2009-10 season. Aliu wrote in a series of tweets Monday that recent criticism of former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock did not surprise him and that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” when it came to Peters, who he labeled as Babcock’s “protege.”
The Flames head coach worked as an assistant under Babcock in junior hockey with the Spokane Chiefs from 1999-2002 and broke into the NHL coaching ranks as Babcock’s assistant with the Detroit Red Wings in 2011.
Aliu alleged on Twitter that Peters “dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room” in his rookie year because he did not approve of Aliu playing hip-hop music in the locker room.
On Tuedsay, Aliu gave a detailed account of the incident to TSN, which also independently corroborated his account with two of his then-teammates. Other players have since come forward with stories of their own unpleasant experiences with Peters, while Calgary general manager Brad Treliving promised a “thorough” investigation into the matter.
Here everything we know so far about the Bill Peters situation.
What is Bill Peters accused of saying?
Former NHLer Akim Aliu accused Peters of repeatedly using racial slurs toward him in the IceHogs locker room before a morning skate during the 2009-10 season.
The Nigerian-born Aliu, 20 at the time, told TSN on Tuesday that Peters said “Hey Akim, I’m sick of you playing that n— s—,” when he entered the room, referring to Aliu’s hip-hop music.
“He said, ‘I’m sick of hearing this n— f—ing other n— in the ass stuff,'” Aliu told TSN. “He then walked out like nothing ever happened. You could hear a pin drop in the room, everything went dead silent. I just sat down in my stall, didn’t say a word.”
TSN reached out to two of Aliu’s his former teammates — Simon Pepin and Peter MacArthur — on Tuesday to corroborate the story. Aliu said Peters never apologized for his comments and instead used a racial slur again when they had a one-on-one meeting.
“You know, I’m just sick of this n— s—. It’s every day. From now on, we need to play different music,” Peters said, according to Aliu.
Aliu tweeted that he rebelled against Peters in the incident’s aftermath and was sent down to the ECHL not long after as a result. He also said he never confronted the coach about the incident directly.
“What am I going to say? I was 20 years old and a first-year pro. I was too scared to speak up,” Aliu told TSN. “I beat myself up every day over it.”
Flames, NHL issue statements over allegation
The NHL called Peters’ alleged behavior “repugnant and unacceptable” in a statement Tuesday.
Rumors swirled that Peters had been fired when he was not seen on the ice for the Flames’ practice in Buffalo on Tuesday, but Calgary GM Brad Treliving told reporters the coach has not yet been relieved of his duties. Treliving said he had alrady spoken to both Peters and Aliu, and while he could not speculate on what might happen, Treliving to the need for a “thorough” investigation into the matter.
“We hope to have this completed quickly, but it’s got to be thorough,” Treliving told reporters. “It’s got to be thorough and it’s got to be done correctly and I’m not about to comment on anything halfway through or give tidbits or give soundbites at this point other than to say the serious nature of this is not lost on us. We take it with extreme seriousness and until such time as I personally can talk to all parties involved and everybody we want to as part of this, we’re not going to comment.”
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reported Tuesday that the only reason Peters has not yet been fired is that the team’s lawyers are working on a way to remove him without having to pay the rest of his contract. According to CapFriendly, Peters is signed through the 2020-21 season; financial details of the contract are unknown.
Later Tuesday evening, Treliving issued a statement that Peters will not be coaching while the team’s investigation continues.
“Bill Peters will not be behind the bench for the Flames game [Wednesday] night in Buffalo,” the statement read. “Associate coach Geoff Ward will handle head coaching duties.”
Prior concerns were raised in Carolina
ABC’s Mark Armstrong reported that a prior concern had been raised by players and staff members within the Hurricanes organization to Ron Francis regarding concerns about Peters. No change was made.
Francis was the Hurricanes’ GM from 2014-18, the same exact time Peters was the head coach. Francis is now the first GM of the Seattle expansion team.
“Close relationships spanning decades were ruined because of Francis’ decision not to fire Peters,” The Athletic’s Sara Civian added.
How NHL players reacted to Akim Aliu’s claim
Another former IceHog, Sean McMorrow, tweeted on Tuesday that Peters was the “worst human being ever to coach me” and that he was treated “terrible” by the now 54-year-old head coach.
Michal Jordan, who played for Peters during his time with the Hurricanes, accused Peters of physical abuse during an unspecified game.
1) Never wish anything bad to the person but you get what you deserve Bill.After years making it to the NHL had experience with the worst coach ever by far.Kicking me and punching other player to the head during the game…
— Michal Jordan (@TheBigCzech23) November 26, 2019
2) then pretending like nothing happened…couldnt believe my eyes what can happen in the best league.. happy that i dont have to go thrue that stuff on daily basics anymore.
— Michal Jordan (@TheBigCzech23) November 26, 2019
Current Hurricanes head coach Rob Brind’Amour — who served as Peters’ assistant — confirmed Jordan’s account on Wednesday and said the team’s upper management handled the situation correctly after players raised concerns about Peters.
The Athletic’s Sara Civian reported Tuesday that one source within the Hurricanes organization simply said “Karma’s a b—” in response to the allegations against Peters.
Peters issues apology
On Wednesday, Peters wrote a letter of apology addressed to Treliving and sent to TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Sportnet’s Eric Francis along with the Flames GM.
“I am aware that there is no excuse for language that is offensive,” the statement read. “I meant no disrespect in what I said, and it was not directed at anyone in particular. But that doesn’t matter, it was hurtful and demeaning. I am truly sorry.”
Later Wednesday, Treliving told reporters that the investigation was still ongoing, adding that the Flames have “tried to be as open as transparent as possible.”
“I know everybody wants everything done immediately [and] the world we live in is immediate,” Treliving told reporters. “We are not trying to stall or take time or drag our feet. It’s a serious matter.”
Aliu called Peters’ apology “misleading, insincere and concerning” in a statement of his own Thursday morning.