This story has been updated. For the most recent updates, see below.
Former NHLer Akim Aliu has accused Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters of directing racial slurs at him while Aliu was a rookie with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs.
Aliu, 30, made the allegations on Twitter Monday, stating that Peters “dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room” during Aliu’s rookie season because Peters “didn’t like my choice of music.” Aliu, who was born in Nigeria but raised in Ukraine and Canada, continued by stating that he rebelled against Peters, who Aliu claimed wrote a letter to Chicago Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough and vice president and GM Stan Bowman to have the then-20-year-old demoted to the ECHL.
Peters was not made available to media Monday following the Flames’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, during which Aliu’s comments came to light, but Calgary GM Brad Treliving addressed the situation post-game.
“During tonight’s game I was made aware of a Tweet from former player Akim Aliu,” Treliving said. “Obviously, we were playing so I haven’t had a chance to sit down with Bill or our people internally to talk about this and get to the bottom of it. I would say we take these matters very, very seriously. So, until such time as we have a chance to speak about it internally, we obviously wanted to address you people.
“We are aware of it,” Treliving continued. “We were made aware of it during the game this evening. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Bill. I will be doing that. Until such time we won’t have any further comment on it. But we will address it and get back to you people once we have a chance to speak internally.”
In a written statement following the game, Treliving added that the team wants to “complete a full and proper investigation before we provide any further comments on the matter.” TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Tuesday morning that the NHL head office has contacted the Flames and “further discussions” are expected.
Aliu’s allegations come in the wake of a recent report that now-former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock asked then-rookie Mitch Marner to rank teammates based on their work ethic and subsequently shared Marner’s list with teammates. Aliu didn’t refer to Peters by name, but said he wasn’t surprised by the report of Babcock’s behavior because the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, same sort of deal with (Babcock’s) protege in (Calgary.)” Peters was one of Babcock’s assistants with the Spokane Chiefs in the late-1990s and later spent three seasons as Babcock’s assistant with the Detroit Red Wings from 2011-12 to 2013-14.
Aliu, who was drafted 56th overall by the Blackhawks in 2007, had brief forays into the AHL prior to his rookie season, scoring three goals in eight games across the regular season and playoffs. In 2009-10, his first full professional season, Aliu scored 11 goals and 17 points in 48 games with the IceHogs and spent 13 games with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, where he scored five goals and 14 points.
After the 2009-10 campaign, Aliu was traded by the Blackhawks to the Atlanta Thrashers alongside Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel. Aliu proceeded to spend much of the next several seasons in the AHL, including extended stays with the Flames’ affiliate. All seven of Aliu’s career NHL contests were played with the Flames during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, several years before Peters’ tenure as Calgary’s coach began. Aliu has since played in Sweden, Russia and Slovakia, with his last stop coming with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears last season.
UPDATE (Nov. 26): The NHL has released the following statement: “The behavior that has been alleged is repugnant and unacceptable. We will have no further comment until we have had an opportunity to look into the matter more thoroughly.”
UPDATE (Nov. 27, 12 p.m. ET): Despite reports Peters had been fired by the Flames, Treliving has stated that the team’s investigation into Peters’ conduct is continuing. Peters, who made the trip with the team to Buffalo, will not be behind the bench when the Flames play the Sabres Wednesday night. Associate coach Geoff Ward will assume coaching duties.
In the wake of the allegations made by Aliu, which were corroborated by two of Aliu’s teammates in a report by TSN’s Frank Serravalli, former NHL defenseman Michal Jordan alleged that he was kicked by Peters while a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. Jordan alleged that Peters also struck another player in the head. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, current Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, who was Peters’ assistant from 2014-15 to 2017-18, told reporters that the incident Jordan described “definitely happened.”
UPDATE (Nov. 27, 9:15 p.m. ET): In a statement released Wednesday night, addressed to Treliving, Peters apologized to the Calgary GM and the Flames organization “for offensive language I used in a professional setting a decade ago.”
The letter, which was posted to social media by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, continued: “The statement was made in a moment of frustration and does not reflect my personal values. After the incident, I was rightfully challenged about my use of language, and I immediately returned to the dressing room to apologize to the team. I have regretted the incident since it happened, and I now also apologize to anyone negatively effected by my words.
“I am aware that there is no excuse for language that is offensive. I meant no disrespect in what I said, and it was not directed at anyone in particular. But, that doesn’t matter; it was hurtful and demeaning. I am truly sorry.”
Peters added that he accepts “the reality of his actions” and that “we must strive to act with integrity, and to take accountability for what we say and do.” He also stated he appreciated and supported the investigation being undertaken by Treliving and the Flames.
UPDATE (Nov. 29, 11:15 a.m. ET): The Flames announced Friday morning press conference, at which GM Brad Treliving will speak. According to multiple reports from TSN and Sportsnet, Treliving will announce that coach Bill Peters has been relieved of his duties.
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