The NHL is sitting on a problem it has no idea how to solve. And, quite honestly, no one really knows how to fix it.
Because the events that led up to Bill Peters “resigning” as coach of the Calgary Flames on Friday have no place in society in general. Yet how we got there, to where we are as a culture in 2019, is what’s most mind-boggling.
What Akim Aliu did was brave. It’s one thing to be a minor league hockey player trying to scratch the surface and eventually reach the NHL. It’s another when you’re an African-American hockey player trying to play in a sport where diversity in skin color is uncommon.
So, no one is faulting Aliu for holding on to this for 10 years before letting the world know of the incident that took place in 2009, when he was a member of the Rockford Ice Hogs, where Peters — the coach of the Chicago Blackhawks’ American Hockey League affiliate — profusely used racial slurs and derogatory remarks in reference to the music he was listening to.
Where this becomes insinuatingly ridiculous is how it took 10 years to get to this point. Someone else, not necessarily a player, of the Rockford organization should have brought this to light sooner. It should not have taken a decade, to where we are now in a time period where race and sports can occasionally turn into a divisive discussion.
But because no one said anything, Peters was free to carry on about his actions and demeanor for his first NHL coaching job; head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2014. Not only did he coach four seasons in Raleigh with no playoff success, but his ridiculous actions carried over to the NHL.
It was discovered that Peters was accused of physically abusing former Carolina defenseman Michal Jordan and punched another player in the head during a game; both accounts were backed up by Rod Brind’Amour, the current Hurricanes head coach and the captain for the Carolina squad that won the Stanley Cup in 2006. If that man says what happened was true, you believe him.
That didn’t stop Ron Francis, the current general manager of the Seattle franchise and former GM of the Hurricanes, to give Peters a contract extension in 2016. In a statement released by Francis one day after Peters “resigned,” he said he knew about the incident and handled the situation internally. To his knowledge, there were no further incidents.
By Francis not removing Peters sooner, Peters could continue; that his twisted sense of an over-indulging Pop Warner-type coaching style was actually acceptable around grown men. Hopefully there were no situations like this in Calgary.
Now, more players are starting to speak out. Blackhawks assistant coach Marc Crawford is being investigated for claims made by former NHL player Sean Avery that Crawford (coach of the Los Angeles Kings) kicked Avery for a too-many-men-on-the-ice call.
One: Of all the things to get angry over a player for, that’s where you draw the line?
Two: How many more incidents like this haven’t been brought up before?
We’re about to find out. There are likely years of unearthed stories that involve tensions between player and coach that have gone by the wayside for so many years, because the NHL has more issues to tend to (like avoiding another lockout in a couple of years) than actual human decency.
Once one testimony comes out, a full wave sweeps through. Until the NHL can get through this wave, there is a budding culture problem that needs to be addressed. And hopefully, when it is addressed, there won’t be a situation like Peters weaseling his way out by way of “a letter of resignation.”
Coyotes at Penguins: We’re slowly getting to the point where the Penguins will call on you and me to skate for them. Injuries keep piling up, and this might be more than Pittsburgh can handle with Phil Kessel coming back to town. COYOTES
Maple Leafs at Blues: The Blues continue to string through the Central Division, as expected, and a home game against the weird Toronto squad is another instance where they should take care of home ice. BLUES
Devils at Predators: P.K. Subban returns to the team he led to the Stanley Cup Final a few years ago, but since this isn’t looking like the potential powerhouse showdown we all expected, this seems like an easy Nashville win. PREDATORS
Last week: 1-2