Akim Aliu

Wild’s Dumba on Hockey Diversity Alliance, getting advice from Kaepernick

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba appeared on “Lunch Talk Live” to discuss the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. Dumba detailed much of the HDA’s aims to Mike Tirico, while also noting how Dumba and the rest of the alliance received advice from trailblazer Colin Kaepernick.

“Eradicating racism can’t be on the shoulders of seven guys,” Dumba told Tirico.

Indeed, shortly after the Hockey Diversity Alliance released its statement, people were throwing the net out wider.

From hearing Dumba’s account of a zoom call with Kaepernick, it sounds like the seven members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance were in awe of the former(?) NFL QB. While Dumba was vague about specific advice, he noted that Kaepernick emphasized unity, and finding the right ambassadors.

So far, those seven HDA ambassadors include: co-heads Akim Aliu and Evander Kane, along with executive committee members Dumba, Trevor Daley, Joel Ward, Wayne Simmonds and Chris Stewart.

Tirico also covered protests, particularly in the Minnesota communities that serve as a second home for Dumba. Dumba said he wishes he could be there to lend his support; in the meantime, Dumba praised J.T. Brown for helping others in the community.

Dumba noted that more Hockey Diversity Alliance announcements could come soon, so that’s exciting.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Aliu, Kane form Hockey Diversity Alliance ‘to eradicate racism and intolerance’

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A group of seven active and former NHL players announced the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA) on Monday. Akim Aliu and Evander Kane will serve as co-heads of an executive committee that also includes Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, and Joel Ward.

“Our mission is to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey,” The Hockey Diversity Alliance wrote in their press release. “We will strive to be a force of positive change not only within our game of hockey, but also within society. Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes. We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office.”

Check out the release here.

(If you want the full text of the release, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

Promising goals, and maybe even more potential in the future?

Along with mapping out a broader goal of addressing racism in hockey (and society), the Hockey Diversity Alliance also shared goals about making the sport more accessible. Considering the costs of playing hockey at most levels, this is pretty exciting. The HDIA noted that they have a “charitable fiscal sponsor” to help boost such efforts.

Speaking of broader goals, it would be delightful to see the Hockey Diversity Alliance cover many groups. And it sounds like early steps are being taken to include women:

Truly spreading the “Hockey is for Everyone” message would be tremendous. Ideally, the sport will also become more inclusive for the LGBTQ2+ community, among others.

NHL executive Kim Davis and NHLPA head Donald Fehr already ranked among those who expressed pride in NHL players speaking up about racism following George Floyd’s tragic death. Seeing Aliu, Kane, Daley, Dumba, Simmonds, Stewart, and Ward form the HDA should only further such feelings.

As promising as it is to picture how far this could go, it seems like the Hockey Diversity Alliance is already off to a promising start.

Full text of Hockey Diversity Alliance release:

Here it is, in full:

We love our sport. We believe that hockey is the greatest game in the world.

As minorities who play professional hockey, we have come together to create the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA). We have appointed Akim Aliu and Evander Kane as co-heads and our executive committee includes Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, and Joel Ward.

Our mission is to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey. We will strive to be a force of positive change not only within our game of hockey, but also within society. Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes. We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office.

We will promote diversity at all levels of the game through community outreach and engagement with you and will endeavor to make the game more affordable and accessible. We will also focus on educating the hockey community about the racism issues confronting the sport, while advocating for acceptance and equality. We have partnered with a charitable fiscal sponsor and we will be launching a charitable division in the coming weeks to assist us in achieving our objectives.

In creating our alliance, we are confident we can inspire a new generation of hockey players and fans. We are hopeful that anyone who puts on skates or sits in the stands will do so without worrying about race, gender or socioeconomic background (and) will be able to express their culture, identity, values and personality without fear of retribution.

We are united in our efforts and promise to work tirelessly to bring about the change our sport and society needs.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Aliu response to KHL hiring Peters: I’m open to second chances

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Bill Peters is back in hockey, and Akim Aliu – the player whose racial allegations led to the former Calgary Flames coach’s resignation – says he’s open to people getting second chances.

”Only with the past behind us can we focus on the future,” Aliu wrote in a text to The Associated Press on Thursday. ”Hockey is for all. I believe in second chances for everyone, that we can all find forgiveness in our heart and that real positive change is coming if we continue to push forward together.”

Aliu, who later posted the comment on his Twitter account, was responding to a request seeking comment on Peters being hired as coach of the Kontinental Hockey League’s Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg a day earlier.

Peters resigned as the Flames coach in November after the Nigerian-born Aliu alleged Peters ”dropped the N bomb several times” in directing racial slurs at him when the two were in the AHL a decade earlier. Other players also accused Peters of physically abusing his players behind the bench during his four years coaching the Carolina Hurricanes.

”I don’t resent a man for finding work,” Aliu wrote. ”But I will fight to make sure those same opportunities are available to everyone, on and off the ice, regardless of race or ethnicity.”

Aliu was born in Nigeria and raised in Ukraine before his family moved to Canada. The 30-year-old is a journeyman minor-league defenseman, who played six games in the Czech Republic this past season.

Aliu said he is ”patiently looking forward to the outcome of the NHL’s investigation” into allegations made against Peters.

The NHL said the investigation has not been concluded.

Peters, speaking during an introductory video conference call with Russian media on Wednesday, said he is attempting to learn and grow from what happened.

”I think as times goes on, we all grow and improve and become better versions of ourselves. And I’m no different than that,” Peters said. ”You learn from all the experiences that you’re in, and you become better.”

Aliu is continuing to focus on making hockey more accessible and diverse by trying to make the sport more affordable to underprivileged youth.

He finished his note by writing: ”Stay Tuned #TimeToDream.”

Bill Peters signs two-year deal to coach KHL’s Avtomobilist

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Bill Peters has resurfaced and has been given a two-year deal to coach the KHL’s HC Avtomobilist.

Five months ago, Peters resigned as Flames head coach after former players came forward with accusations of racial slurs and physical abuse.

Akim Aliu, who played for Peters with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in 2008-09 and 2009-10, Tweeted in November that Peters used a racial slur “several times” because he did not like the choice of music being played in the team dressing room.

Those allegations were confirmed by two of Aliu’s Rockford teammates.

Two more of Peters’ former players came forward days later. Michal Jordan alleged he was kicked and punched in the head on the bench by Peters when he played for Carolina. Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, an assistant under Peters, confirmed that it had happened.

Sean McMorrow, who played for Peters in 2008-09 with the Ice Hogs, Tweeted, “Worst human being to ever coach me … treated me terrible on a AHL team (IceHogs) where I won a League Award for Community Service. #badguy.”

Peters released a statement offering a ‘sincere apology’ to the Flames and ‘anyone negatively affected.’ He was out of a job two days later after Flames general manager Brad Treliving did an investigation.

On a video conference with KHL media Wednesday morning, Peters was asked about his end in Calgary.

“I think as time goes on we all grow and improve and become better versions of ourselves, and I’m no different than that,” Peters said. “You learn from all the experiences that you’re in and you become better. It’s no different right now, we’re going through a very trying time as a world with the global pandemic. I believe we’re going to come out of this and when we come out of this people are going to be better people for it and more passionate and compassionate towards each other and more patient.”

Peters’ staff in the KHL will include Perry Pearn and German Titov and his roster will feature former NHLers like Nikita Tryamkin, Nigel Dawes (pending free agent), Pavel Datysuk, and Peter Holland.

UPDATE: Treliving said the following after being asked about the former Flames coach’s new gig:

“I’m a big believer in second chances for everyone. Bill made a mistake. He’s a good coach, he’s a good man. He made an error and I certainly wish him well.”

Aliu posted a statement on Twitter Thursday afternoon:

MORE:
‘This is for real:’ Journeyman Aliu sparks hockey reckoning
Aliu calls Flames coach’s apology ‘misleading, insincere’
Bill Peters out as Calgary Flames head coach

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Calgary Flames: This season’s biggest surprises and disappointments

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Calgary Flames.

Gaudreau, Monahan have been disappointments for Flames

Johnny Gaudreau enjoyed the best season of his NHL career in 2018-19, setting career highs for goals (36) and points (99). Gaudreau blew away his previous career high of 84 points.

In doing so, Gaudreau might have set expectations too high for both himself and the Flames.

Some might pin Gaudreau’s slippage to a morale-busting first-round loss to the Avalanche during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After all, Gaudreau failed to score a single goal during that series, managing a measly assist over five games. If there was a shred of doubt about Gaudreau vs. Nathan MacKinnon, that debate was crushed with the speed of an authoritative overtime playoff game-winner.

Maybe Gaudreau is suffering from a minor crisis of confidence, but that armchair psychology likely falls short. Simply put, he was probably playing over his head last season, and then he regressed.

It’s still a disappointment for the Flames, though. With 58 points in 70 games, Gaudreau’s .83 points-per-game average is the third-worst of his career.

And, generally speaking, as Gaudreau goes, so does Sean Monahan.

It’s not surprising that Matthew Tkachuk ranks higher than Monahan and Gaudreau on this GAR chart (via Charting Hockey using Evolving Hockey’s stats), being that Tkachuk is such a five-on-five demon. But the two being run-of-the-mill by their standards made it tough for Calgary to pull away from the Pacific pack.

Flames firing Bill Peters was part of a run of coaching surprises

The series of events that ultimately led to the Flames firing Bill Peters was quite ugly, and there were also surprises along the way.

Frankly, the fact that Peters faced actual consequences — rather than another powerful person’s indiscretions merely being brushed under the rug — was a pleasant surprise. Peters facing repercussions doesn’t delete the unpleasant experiences Akim Aliu and others went through, yet it was a sign of progress in hockey — whether you consider the changes big or merely incremental.

Peters’ firing was part of a series of surprises in the coaching ranks that would probably go down as a bigger story for 2019-20 if COVID-19 hadn’t halted play altogether.

Cam Talbot rebounds for Flames

In a season of slippage for the Flames, Talbot’s lifting Calgary up.

After seeing his save percentage sink below .90 during his final year with the Oilers, Talbot’s been huge for Calgary. Talbot entered the “pause” with a three-game winning streak, and generated a strong .919 save percentage overall.

That’s all been crucial, as David Rittich remained mediocre. If he’s “Big Save Dave,” perhaps Rittich needs to focus a bit more on the small and medium-sized stops?

Flames aren’t getting pleasant surprises from Sam Bennett

Expecting more from Rittich (.907 save percentage in 2019-20) was foolish considering his .908 career average. Projecting a dramatic transformation from Bennett might have been even more foolish.

Yet, even by diminished standards, Bennett’s 2019-20 was extremely meh. Bennett only managed 12 points over 52 games, which translates to a career-worst .23 ppg.

The Flames have tried to hold out for value in potentially trading Bennett. That makes sense, as it would sting to receive very little for the fourth pick of the 2014 NHL Draft. But considering how his numbers (and ice time) are sinking, maybe it would be best for everyone involved if a trade happened?

A change of scenery might be the only thing that leads to pleasant surprises for Bennett and the Flames.

Oh, and as a bonus surprise: Milan Lucic … not as bad as maybe people think. His contract remains bad, but Lucic seems like he can be an OK contributor overall. Yup, life and the Flames are both full of surprises … and OK, perhaps disappointments.

MORE FLAMES BITS

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.