Calgary Flames Head Coach Bill Peters was not behind the bench last night during the game against the Buffalo Sabres. Flames General Manager Brad Treliving “benched” Peters, effectively handing associate coach Geoff Ward the head coaching duties until the investigation behind Peters’ racist remarks and physical assault of former players is complete.
On Monday night, former player Akim Aliu tweeted that Calgary Flames Head Coach Bill Peters used racist language toward him when Peters coached Aliu with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs during the 2009-2010 season. Over the course of three tweets Monday night, Aliu wrote:
“Not very surprising the things we’re hearing about [Mike] Babcock. Apple doesn’t fall far from the Tree, same sort of deal with his protégé in YYC. Dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music. First one to admit I rebelled against him. Wouldn’t you? And instead of remedying the situation, he wrote a letter to John McDonough and Stan Bowman to have me sent down to the ECHL. 20 year old on pace for 20 goals in his first pro year with zero PP/PK time was off to a great start in his Pro career.”
Two of Aliu’s teammates at the time confirmed the incidents. Aliu stated that he did not confront Peters after the incident and he alleged that the animosity with the coach led the Flames to demote him to the lower-tier East Coast Hockey League. “What am I going to say? I was 20 years old and a first-year pro. I was too scared to speak up. I beat myself up every day over it” Aliu stated when asked about why the allegations are coming out now.
Following Aliu’s tweets, Michal Jordan, a defenseman who played for Peters on the Hurricanes from 2014 to 2016, wrote in a series of tweets on Tuesday that Peters had kicked and punched him and a teammate during a game. Jordan stated Peters kicked him in the back during a game. When asked why these allegations were surfacing now, Jordan stated, “I was at that point in my career, like I just got there, so I couldn’t say anything. Now other guys are speaking out, so I felt like I could.”
As of this morning, the Flames have not fired Peters. On Wednesday night, Peters issued a statement apologizing to GM Brad Treliving for his racist comments. However, Peters left Buffalo early Wednesday evening, not traveling back to Calgary with the team.
Associate coach Geoff Ward was focusing on preparing for the game on Wednesday. The Flames defeated the Sabres 3-2 in overtime. As for Peters, the team is currently investigating the allegations and are approaching the situation seriously. You may wonder how the league may go about investigating an allegation stemming from a decade-old incident. Even more complicated is that the incident occurred in a different league. As both leagues are private entities, the NHL most likely will not be able to compel the IceHogs to turn over relevant evidence. Further, any witnesses willing to speak (the NHL most likely will not be able to subpoena witnesses) will not do so under oath and will not be subject to the risk of perjury.
Regardless, the NHL will be able to investigate by interviewing potential witnesses on a voluntary basis, retrieve personnel files, and attempt to obtain electronic evidence. The Flames are in the best position to take immediate action – and should. As Peters’s employer, the Flames most likely included language in his employment contract that will allow them to address situations directly where Peters displays inappropriate behavior. Most employment contracts include morals clauses where the employer can terminate the contract if the employee engages in inappropriate or immoral conduct. No matter what, it is best the Flames conduct a thorough investigation before terminating Peters’s contract.
Let’s remember, the NHL will most likely want this taken care of immediately. The league just launched the “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative. This initiative is aimed toward driving positive social change and fostering more inclusive communities.
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