Rod Brind’Amour

Ron Francis speaks about handling of Peters situation while Hurricanes GM

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NHL Seattle general manager Ron Francis has responded to how physical abuse accusations against former Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters were handled when he was the team’s GM.

Speaking with The Seattle Times this week, Francis said he addressed the issue with Peters and defended giving him a two-year extension after the fact.

“We looked where the team was and how it was playing,” Francis said. “It was moving in the right direction. We’d made a huge increase from where it was the year before to where we were that year. And quite honestly, we looked at that (physical-abuse) situation, we addressed it and we felt it was behind him.”

“I think you deal with it the best you can with the situation you have at the time,” Francis said. “I think within the last week there have been some changes the league has made. I think that’s positive moving forward. I don’t claim to be perfect. I make mistakes. I try to learn every day from the people I talk with in situations. That’s what I try to do and take that knowledge moving forward. And hopefully you’re never in that situation again.”

Last month, after Peters was accused to uttering racial slurs at Akim Aliu, whom he coached in the American Hockey League, former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan said that Peters kicked him in the back and punched another player during a game. The allegations for were confirmed by current head coach Rod Brind’Amour, who was an assistant under Peters.

Former Hurricanes majority owner Peter Karmanos told The Seattle Times that he would have fired Francis “in a nanosecond” had he been made aware of the allegations against Peters, even though Francis, who added there was a full vetting process during the hiring process, said he informed management of the situation.

Peters resigned as Calgary Flames head coach days after the allegations went public. In a statement that week Francis acknowledged he was made aware of the incidents and that he “took immediate action to address the matter and briefed ownership.” He did not reveal what he did to correct the matter in either his statement or in the interview with the Times’ Geoff Baker.

“When you look back, there were some things we did well and certain things we need to improve on to get better,” he said. “That’s part of the learning process, I think.”

The NHL revealed a four-point plan this week at the Board of Governors that will provide a guideline for teams in handling abuse allegations and other inappropriate conduct.

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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.

Hurricanes remain ‘hopeful’ for a Justin Williams comeback

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When Justin Williams announced in September he would be “taking a break” from hockey, he didn’t shut the door entirely on a possible comeback at some point this season.

“Because of my current indecision, and without the type of mental and physical commitment that I’m accustomed to having, I’ve decided to step away from the game,” wrote the 38-year-old Williams.

With the Hurricanes sitting in an Eastern Conference wild card and only two points away from a top three spot in the Metropolitan Division, adding a veteran goal scorer like Williams would only help. What he brings on and off the ice is immeasurable, and it was clear last season just how valuable he was to a budding young team. The team is hopeful he’ll return to play and are keeping the lines of communication open.

“We continue to talk with him. I think he’s working out a little bit more on his own right now,” Hurricanes GM Don Waddell told the team website this week. “I think he’s going to start coming to the gym a little more. That’s a positive sign. What that end result is yet is still a mystery to all of us, but we’re hopeful that maybe there is an opportunity there to have him come back.”

Waddell isn’t the only one who’s unsure of a Williams return. Williams himself sounds like he’s been back and forth on what his future holds, according to head coach Rod Brind’Amour.

“I don’t know. I think we’re getting closer to a time where if he doesn’t, then he’s not,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s got to get in game shape and do all that, so there’s a time frame for that. There’s still time for that. … We talk quite a bit. We mostly talk about kids and how’s coaching going. I’ll ask if he’s staying in shape or getting in shape, and he’ll some days say, ‘Yeah,’ and then say, ‘Ah, maybe.’ So, we’ll see.”

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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.

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.

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.

Former Hurricanes owner criticizes how Francis handled allegations against Peters

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Former Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karamanos told the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker that then-Hurricanes GM Ron Francis didn’t tell Karamanos about physical abuse allegations Bill Peters faced (from Michal Jordan and others) during Peters’ and Jordan’s time with the Hurricanes.

Karamanos said to Baker that, if Francis had told him about such claims against Peters, Peters would have been fired in a “nanosecond.”

“I’m pretty upset,” Karamanos told Baker. “And I have my calls in to Ronnie as well. I think he’s the one who’s going to have to tell people what he did when he found out that the coach had done these things.”

If Karamanos’ claims that Francis never told him about the allegations regarding Peters are correct – Karamanos noted to Baker that Francis kept things “close to the vest” – then the chain of actions would have indeed stopped with the front office.

Current Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour backed up Jordan’s claims about multiple instances of abuse (with an anonymous other Hurricanes defenseman also being an alleged victim), with Brind’Amour stating that the incidents “for sure happened.”

Brind’Amour said that he was satisfied with whatever actions Francis & Co. took, for what it’s worth:

”Management handled it directly and never heard of it again and never saw anything else after that,” Brind’Amour told reporters on Wednesday, according to the AP. ”So it was definitely dealt with, in my opinion, correctly. … We’ve definitely moved past that.”

Whether Peters moved on or not, Karamanos provided some troubling insight to Baker about Jordan’s career path, as the 29-year-old has been playing in the KHL since the 2016-17 season.

“I never could figure out why the kid wouldn’t take the contract we had offered him,” Karmanos said of Jordan, who left to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. “He was an excellent seventh defenseman as far as I was concerned. And now I can understand why.’’

It’s haunting to consider Karamanos’ comments about Jordan in light of Akim Aliu telling TSN’s Frank Seravalli that he feels like the fallout from Peters’ alleged racist remarks “ruined my career before it started.”

Peters submitted a statement in the form of letter to Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving on Wednesday, addressing Aliu’s claims — while not mentioning Aliu by name. Peters did not address the allegations from his time with the Hurricanes, however.

At the moment, the Flames have not announced whether Peters will be fired or not, although he wasn’t on the bench for Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres.

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.