Akim Aliu

Aliu expects ‘big change’ after meeting with Bettman

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TORONTO — Former NHL forward Akim Aliu expects ”big change” in hockey after a meeting with top league executives Tuesday.

Aliu met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly in Toronto to discuss his allegation that former Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters used a racial slur several times during the 2009-10 season while the two were with the Chicago Blackhawks’ top minor league affiliate in Rockford, Illinois.

The Flames investigated Aliu’s claim, and Peters resigned last Friday. Peters apologized to the Flames and general manager Brad Treliving for using ”offensive language” in Rockford.

The NHL has said it is continuing to review the matter.

”It’s been a tough week,” the Nigeria-born Aliu said. ”We had some great discussion with Gary and Bill, who couldn’t have been kinder and (more) receptive to the message we’re trying to bring.

”I think there’s some big change coming, and it’s long overdue. I’m excited to see it come to fruition.”

Bettman and Daly put out a joint statement after the meeting with Aliu.

”We are pleased to have met with Akim Aliu today and had a productive and candid conversation,” the statement said. ”Today’s discussion is part of a broader, thorough review and process that the league is undertaking. We share a mutual objective: ensuring that hockey is an open and inclusive sport at all levels.”

The league said it will have no further comment until after the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting next week in Pebble Beach, California.

Following Aliu’s allegations, others claimed Peters kicked and punched players behind the bench during his recent time with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Calgary’s investigation started last Monday when Aliu wrote on Twitter that Peters ”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.”

The NHL Coaches’ Association said in a statement Tuesday that ”it is a coach’s job to understand how to best motivate players while respecting them as individuals.”

”Coaching philosophies differ from coach to coach, and season to season, but there are lines that cannot be crossed and there is certainly no room in the NHL, or anywhere else, for abusive behaviour of any kind,” it said.

Marc Crawford on leave from Blackhawks following Sean Avery’s allegations

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The Chicago Blackhawks announced that assistant coach Marc Crawford “will be away from the team” while they investigate “recent allegations that have been made regarding his conduct with another organization.”

To cut through the legalese that’s becoming common as stories of abuse have surfaced (or resurfaced) over the past few weeks, the Blackhawks are referring to Sean Avery’s claims that Crawford kicked him during a Dec. 23, 2006 game stemming from their time with the Los Angeles Kings.

Avery’s details were pretty vivid to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

Avery explained that he messed up a drill during a practice, and his errant puck caught Crawford on the head, forcing Crawford to get stitches. Brooks asked Avery if Crawford then kicked Avery because of the mistake during the drill, but Avery said that it was because of a penalty:

“No, he kicked me after a too-many-men-on-the-ice call I took,” Avery said. “He didn’t have me serve it, we got scored on, and he let me have it.”

“You know how I stand at the end of the bench? He came down and gave me an ass kick that left a mark.”

If you’re familiar with Avery’s career as a profound pest, you’d probably not be too surprised that he believes that the rump-kicking wasn’t what got Avery traded out of town. Instead, Avery stated that he nearly got in a scuffle with an assistant named Mark Hardy.

(The candidness is really worth a read.)

Anyway, Avery’s claims surfaced from Brooks on Nov. 30, and the Blackhawks made this move on Monday (Dec. 2).

Here are the two tweets, again heavy on careful wording:

Allegations surfacing from around the NHL, and hockey world in general

To recap, reports of Mike Babcock asking Mitch Marner to put together a list of the Maple Leafs’ most and least hard-working young players inspired others to share their own experiences.

Akim Aliu spoke up about racist remarks made by Bill Peters about a decade ago, when the two were part of a Blackhawks affiliate team, the Rockford IceHogs. Following Aliu’s tweets, Michal Jordan also accused Peters of being physically abusive during their time with the Carolina Hurricanes (claims that were backed up by others, including Rod Brind’Amour). The Flames eventually parted ways with Peters after he offered a carefully worded statement, a statement that was criticized by many, Aliu included.

There’s been a back-and-forth between former Hurricanes owner Peter Karamanos and former Hurricanes GM Ron Francis stemming from how allegations of Peters’ abuse was handled.

Additional details regarding Babcock’s treatment of players have also come about, including troubling details about how Babcock allegedly treated Johan Franzen, both from Franzen and from Chris Chelios.

Former NHL player Daniel Carcillo has also gone into (sometimes graphic) detail about allegations of abuse in the hockey world.

Crawford, then, is another person in a position of power who is being accused of abusive behavior.

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Will this series of accusations (which isn’t comprehensive, and may just be the beginning) result in big changes for the culture around the sport, overall?

Some, such as The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek, believe that this is the start of a “reckoning.” Others, including Jashvina Shah for The Globe & Mail, believe that hockey culture will never change.

Whatever the larger impact might or might not be, we know that Peters is out as Flames head coach, and Crawford is at least on temporary leave from the Blackhawks.

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.

Ron Francis says he briefed Hurricanes ownership on Peters incident

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Seattle general manager Ron Francis broke his silence on Saturday and issued a brief statement regarding Bill Peters’ player abuse when they were both with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Shortly after it was revealed that Peters had repeatedly used a racial slur toward former NHL forward Akim Aliu, former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan came forward and accused Peters of kicking him in the back during a game and punching another player in the back of the head.

Current Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour — who was an assistant with the team at the time — said the incidents definitely happened, and that Francis had dealt with them internally. How, exactly, they were dealt with is still unclear as then-Hurricanes owner Peter Karamanos said he would have fired Peters “in a nanosecond” had he known about the incidents.

Francis said in his statement on Saturday that he did brief ownership on the situation.

Francis’ entire statement is as follows:

When I was General Manager in Carolina, after a game, a group of Players and Hockey Staff members made me aware of the physical incidents involving two Players and Bill Peters. I took this matter very seriously.

I took immediate action to address the matter and briefed ownership.

To my knowledge, no further such incidents occurred.

It would have been inappropriate for me to comment publicly while an active investigation was being conducted by another team. I will not comment on this matter further.

Peters spent four years as the head coach of the Hurricanes, and as noted by the News & Observer‘s Luke DeCock in a scathing article on the Peters-Francis era on Saturday, had his contract extended two different times by Francis even after the abuse incidents took place.

He had been the head coach of the Calgary Flames since the start of the 2017-18 season, a position he held until he resigned on Friday.

It is entirely possible, if not likely, that his NHL career is finished.

But with Francis now in a position to build the yet-to-be-named expansion franchise in Seattle he is still going to have a lot of questions to answer on how he handled the Carolina situation, and why he handled it the way he did.

Related: Peters out as Flames head coach

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Flames’ GM discusses Peters’ resignation, due diligence on hiring

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Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving met with the media on Friday afternoon to discuss the resignation of coach Bill Peters.

The press conference came after it was revealed that the disgraced coach had used a racial slur against former player Akim Aliu in the American Hockey League, as well as multiple accusations of physical abuse behind the bench when he was the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. Aliu’s story was independently corroborated by several of his then-teammates with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs (Peters later apologized in a letter to Treliving — an apology that Aliu called misleading and insincere), while current Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said former defenseman Michal Jordan’s accusations of physical abuse “definitely happened.”

After giving a rundown on the timeline of events leading to Peters’ resignation, as well as emphasizing the organization’s desire to handle the investigation correctly and thoroughly, Treliving attempted to answer questions on a wide range of subjects, some of which he was unable (or unwilling) to answer.

Among those: He would not comment on whether or not Peters’ resignation meant that the team was no longer paying him the remainder of his contract or if there was any sort of deal made, saying only that Peters was simply no longer a member of the organization.

He also did not want to deal with hypotheticals and refused to answer directly whether or not the Flames would have fired Peters had he not resigned on Friday.

From there, a lot of the questions dealt with what the Flames knew and how much due diligence was done when they hired Peters prior to the 2017-18 season.

“Were we aware of any type of allegations? Categorically no,” Treliving said on Friday.

He was asked directly if he had spoken to former Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis as part of the hiring process, saying only that he spoke to several of Peters’ previous employers. Francis was reportedly made aware of the incidents involving Jordan and a still-unknown Hurricanes player but did not tell the team’s owner. He has yet to speak publicly on the incidents.

“The question has been raised, did we know, what do we know,” said Treliving. “We knew nothing of any nature that we have been dealing with the past few days. In terms of due diligence. You do due diligence. We do a full scrub on any hire. I did speak to previous employers of Bill.”

As a follow-up, he was asked if the team will change the way it handles future hires and the vetting process that comes with it.

“No matter how difficult the situation you go through, you have to learn from it,” he said. “There are lessons to be learned here. You always want to find out information,I think in all of us there are probably things in the past people may not be aware of. You try to do the best job you possibly can, we will make sure we continue to dig as hard as we can for anyone else.”

“I don’t know if you’re going to find out all the information, or everything in everybody’s past. You have to do the best job you possibly can. Are there things we can change and add? Sure, you look at your policies, you look at your procedures, you always have to get better. We will attempt to do that. I talked to people Bill had worked for in the past, had played for Bill in the past, people he had been in contact with.”

Treliving was also asked about what changes need to happen regarding the culture of the sport so incidents like the ones involving Aliu and Jordan no longer happen.

“I think from 10 years ago we have changed,” he said. “You evolve all the time. You have to continue to evolve. You have to continue to look and see if there are issues that can be addressed and changed. I know how we operate in terms of the culture, and values and thing we hold dear to us. That type of behavior just has no place. Is there more steps that need to be taken? I am a big believer in accountability and responsibility. We will be accountable to make sure we are doing everything we can from our standpoint, but I think lots of steps have taken throughout the hockey culture to move forward positively. We need to continue to do that.”

Related: Peters out as Flames’ coach

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bill Peters out as Calgary Flames head coach

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Bill Peters has resigned as head coach of the Calgary Flames.

“Effective immediately, Bill Peters is no longer a member of the Calgary Flames organization,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving announced Friday. Assistant Geoff Ward, who coached the team Wednesday night in Buffalo, has been named interim head coach.

The news comes days after former players came forward with accusations of racial slurs and physical abuse against Peters.

Akim Aliu played for Peters with the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs in 2008-09 and 2009-10. On Twitter Monday night Aliu, who spent last season with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, alleged that the head coach used a racial slur “several times” because he did not like the choice of music being played in the dressing room.

Speaking to TSN’s Frank Seravalli on Tuesday, Aliu expanded on his Tweets:

“He walked in before a morning pre-game skate and said ‘Hey Akim, I’m sick of you playing that n—– s—.’ He said ‘I’m sick of hearing this n—–s f—— other n—–s in the ass 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.”

The allegations were independently corroborated by Simon Pepin and Peter MacArthur, two of Aliu’s teammates with the Ice Hogs.

Aliu said that when he was called into Peters’ office later, there was no apology and the head coach continued to express his displeasure with the music. Weeks later, Aliu, who told TSN he did not tell the Blackhawks organization about what Peters had said, was sent down to the ECHL after the two had a confrontation during practice.

“The alleged actions by a former coach toward Akim Aliu while with the Rockford IceHogs are something we take seriously,” the Blackhawks said in a statement on Tuesday. “The purported incident had not been reported or brought to our attention prior to yesterday and had no effect on any player personnel decision regarding Mr. Aliu.”

[RELATED: Flames’ GM discusses Peters’ resignation, due diligence on hiring]

More allegations against Peters surfaced following Aliu’s speaking out.

Michal Jordan, who played under Peters with the Hurricanes for parts of two seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16, Tweeted, “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.”

When asked about the accusation Wednesday morning, Rod Brind’Amour, who was an assistant coach with the team from 2011-2018, confirmed the allegations. “It definitely happened,” he told reporters Wednesday.

Sean McMorrow 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.”

“We knew nothing of any nature of what we’ve been dealing with the last couple of days,” Treliving said.

Peters issued a statement on Wednesday night apologizing to Treliving and the organization “for offensive language I used in a professional setting a decade ago.” None of the players who brought allegations forward were named in the letter.

Aliu responded on Twitter with a statement reading, “I have read the statement of Bill Peters, which I found to be misleading, insincere and concerning. I have accepted an invitation from the NHL to meet and discuss this situation. Out of respect for that process I will not respond publicly to the statement or discuss the racism and discrimination that I have endured until after my meeting.”

The Flames hired Peters in April 2018 after he spent four seasons with the Hurricanes. He led Calgary to a division title in 2018-19 and the second-most points in franchise history. The team is currently off to a 12-12-4 start and out of the Western Conference playoff picture.

MORE: Karmanos criticizes how Francis handled allegations against Peters

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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.