The Calgary Flames fired coach Bill Peters on Friday, according to multiple reports, after former NHLer Akim Aliu, born in Nigeria, revealed that Peters used a racial epithet while speaking to him in the American Hockey League a decade ago.
The Flames announced that general manager Brad Treliving will hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m ET.
Aliu, 30, told the Canadian television network TSN that he was playing for the Rockford (Illinois) Ice Hogs in 2009-10 when Peters addressed him about his music selections in the team dressing room.
“He walked in before a morning pre-game skate and said ‘Hey Akim, I’m sick of you playing that (expletive) (expletive),’ ” Aliu, 30, told TSN.
Peters was in his second season with the Flames, and he had a 61-37-11 record. He was the Hurricanes' head coach for four seasons.
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Mar 27, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters looks on during warm ups prior to the game against the Dallas Stars at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Sergei Belski, Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Peters had sent an apology letter to Flames general manager Brad Treliving on Wednesday night. "I was rightfully challenged about my use of language, and I immediately returned to the dressing room and apologized to the team," he wrote.
But Aliu tweeted he had read the letter on social media and called it "misleading, insincere and concerning."
Even before this incident was revealed, Peters was considered to be on the hot seat in Calgary because the Flames have played poorly this season. They won 50 games last season, and are 12-12-4 this season. The Flames have lost seven of their last eight.
Aliu first made the accusation on Twitter on Monday night during the Flames’ overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Peters did not speak to the media after the game and he was not behind the bench during Wednesday's game in Buffalo.
The NHL has embraced a "hockey is for everyone" campaign and has preached against any form of intolerance in the sport. The league immediately issued a statement saying the accusations would be investigated, "The behavior that has been alleged is repugnant and unacceptable," the NHL said.
One of his former players in Carolina, Michal Jordan, said Peters had kicked him in the back while he was on the bench and had hit another player. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour, an assistant at the time, confirmed the incidents, saying, “It for sure happened, the two issues that are in question.”
On Tuesday, TSN got two of Aliu’s Rockford teammates who were in the room at the time of the alleged incident, Simon Pepin and Peter MacArthur, to corroborate Aliu’s account. He said Rockford team captain Jake Dowell later confronted Peters about the incident in the coach’s office.
Aliu told TSN, when Peters called him into his office to talk about it, Peters did not apologize. Instead, Peters expressed his displeasure in Aliu’s choice of music for the dressing room, with Aliu saying Peters said: “You know, I’m just sick of this (expletive) (expletive). It’s every day. From now on, we need to play different music.”
Aliu played seven games for the Flames from 2011-13
According to Aliu, he was demoted after he complained against the use of the derogatory language. He had 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in 48 games for Rockford in 2009-10 before being demoted to Toledo of the East Coast Hockey League.
Aliu told TSN that he kept quiet back then out of fear of reprisal.
"What am I going to say? I was 20 years old and a first-year pro. I was too scared to speak up,” Aliu said. “I beat myself up every day over it.”
Aliu said he believes that incident with Peters “ruined my career before it started.”
“Look at the numbers. I was on pace for 20 goals in my first pro season and I wasn’t getting any power-play or penalty-kill time. Zero special teams,” Aliu said. “I feel like this ruined my career before it started. I don’t think that can be disputed. Then you get sent down to the ECHL, then traded to another organization and it’s an uphill climb from there.”
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