1. Flames GM Brad Treliving
BUFFALO — Amid explosive allegations of racism and physical abuse of players, Bill Peters remains the head coach of the Calgary Flames.
As of Tuesday evening, the Flames were continuing their investigation of a claim by former NHLer Akim Aliu that Peters “dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room.”
“This type of allegation, it’s repulsive,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said as his club practised Tuesday afternoon in Buffalo. “Now, it’s my job to find out exactly what’s taken place.”
Tuesday evening, Treliving said in a statement that associate coach Geoff Ward would replace Peters behind the bench for Wednesday’s matchup against the Buffalo Sabres and that the investigation was ongoing: “This is a very serious matter and we want to be thorough in our review.”
Aliu rocked the hockey world Monday with a series of Twitter posts that alleged he was the target of racist comments by Peters during the 2009-10 campaign.
Peters was then coach of the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs, while Aliu was a rookie forward with the Chicago Blackhawks’ farm team.
Akim Aliu made his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames in April 2012. He’s pictured here during a practice on Feb. 22, 2013. Postmedia Archives
Aliu, who would later spend two seasons with the Flames’ organization and logged seven NHL games with the club, further detailed his allegations Tuesday in an interview with TSN.
“He walked in before a morning pre-game skate and said, ‘Hey Akim, I’m sick of you playing that n—– s—,’ ” Aliu, who is of Nigerian descent, told TSN. “He said, ‘I’m sick of hearing this n—–s f—— other n—–s in the a– stuff.’
“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.”
According to TSN, two of Aliu’s former IceHogs teammates independently corroborated the story.
“The behaviour that has been alleged is repugnant and unacceptable,” the NHL said in a statement. “We will have no further comment until we have had an opportunity to look into the matter more thoroughly.”
The Flames learned of Aliu’s social-media posts during Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Treliving’s investigation has included chats with Aliu, Peters and higher-ups in the Blackhawks organization.
With Ward also taking the reins for Tuesday’s practice, there were reports the 54-year-old Peters had been fired, but those proved false.
Flames associate coach Geoff Ward speaks to media on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Screengrab from Calgary Flames video
“I want to start by saying that allegations of this nature, we take very, very seriously. This is a subject matter that has no place in our organization,” Treliving said when he addressed the media Tuesday afternoon in Buffalo. “Throughout the evening last night and into this morning we were starting an investigation into the incident. The purpose of me coming to you here today is we have not completed that.
“Bill has not been relieved of his duties. We are continuing this ongoing investigation right now. We hope to have this completed quickly but it has to be thorough. It has to be thorough and it has to be done correctly. I’m not about to comment on anything halfway through or give tidbits or give sound bites at this point, other than to say the serious nature of this is not lost on us.”
Now 30, Aliu explained to TSN why he waited nearly a decade to go public about the alleged incident with Peters.
“This isn’t me being bitter. I sat on this a really, really long time,” he said. “It broke my heart, I think it made my career go downhill before it started.
“This isn’t to the degree of (Colin) Kaepernick by any means, but if you play the race card, it’s most likely the end of your career.”
There was another serious claim against Peters on Tuesday afternoon, with defenceman Michal Jordan posting on Twitter that the coach was physically abusive on the bench during his tenure with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.
Peters opted out of his contract with the Hurricanes in April 2018 and was then hired by Treliving to coach the Flames.
“Never wish anything bad to the person but you get what you deserve Bill,” wrote Jordan, who appeared in 79 games with the Hurricanes and is now playing in the Russia-based KHL. “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 then pretending like nothing happened . . . couldnt believe my eyes what can happen in the best league.”