Former Hurricanes coach Bill Peters accused of racist comments

Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters is under investigation by the team and the NHL after accusations he made a racial slur toward a black player a decade ago were revealed Monday. Peters was the Hurricanes coach from 20014-18. (Liam Richards / The Canadian Press via AP)

Former Carolina Hurricanes and current Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters was accused Monday of making racist comments toward a former player a decade ago, a claim that two teammates of the accuser confirmed in a story by TSN.

Akim Aliu, a second round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007, said in a series of tweets — and then in an interview with TSN — that Peters used a racial slur to describe the music Aliu was playing in the Rockford IceHogs locker room during the 2009-10 season. Peters was the coach of the IceHogs, the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, for three seasons from 2008 to 2011.

Aliu was seemingly emboldened to speak out about Peters following criticisms of former Toronto coach Mike Babcock were revealed after the Maple Leafs fired their coach last Wednesday.

Both the Flames and the NHL said they are investigating the allegations, and Calgary GM Brad Treliving said Tuesday afternoon that Peters was not coaching practice that day and the team was continuing its investigation.

“The serious nature of this is not lost on us,” Treliving said.

Former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan, who was drafted by the team in 2008 and played for Carolina and the team’s AHL affiliates from 2010-16, also alleged Tuesday that Peters kicked him in the back during a game and punching another player in the head.

TSN’s Frank Seravalli said multiple sources confirmed the punching incident, which Jordan told Seravalli was witnessed by several other players and trainers.

Current Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, who was an assistant under Peters and replaced him prior to last season, declined to get into any specifics on Peters’ behavior while he was in Carolina following Tuesday’s practice at PNC Arena.

“That’s a tough one,” Brind’Amour said. “I don’t think I can comment on stuff like that. … That’s not our issue to deal with. … That’s obviously a serious thing.”

Brind’Amour was questioned about Peters on Tuesday prior to Jordan’s allegations.

Peters coached under Babcock at several stops while climbing the coaching ranks.

He was an assistant to Babcock with the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs in the 1996-97 and 1999-2000 seasons, sandwiching two years as a scout for the team. Peters remained an assistant after Babcock landed an AHL job with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, and he became the head coach in Spokane in 2005-06, winning the Memorial Cup in 2008.

That’s when Peters was hired in Rockford, and Aliu played under him for more than half of the 2009-10 season before being assigned to the ECHL. Aliu said the incident happened that season, and Aliu “rebelled against him,” leading to his demotion despite having 11 goals in just 48 games of his first pro season.

Aliu, for his part, was also not a stranger to controversy in his career. He was the victim at the center of a hazing incident in his first season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires. The incident boiled over when Aliu, a first-year player with the team, and teammate Steve Downie fought after Downie crosschecked Aliu in practice, knocking out several of Aliu’s teeth.

Both players were eventually traded.

Peters coached three seasons before making the jump to the NHL, joining Babcock again as an assistant on his staff in Detroit, and he was hired by the Hurricanes before the 2014-15 season by then-GM Ron Francis.

In four years in Carolina, Peters failed to take a young Hurricanes team to the postseason and, like Aliu, did not avoid controversy during his time in Raleigh.

Late in the 2016-17 season, Peters was asked if backup goaltender Eddie Lack would be given more opportunity to play given that the Hurricanes were well out of a playoff position.

“I don’t think it’s much of a competition,” Peters said. “Eddie’s played 10 games and he was poor in his last outing, let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve got a guy who is well ahead of the other guy, and the numbers back that up. That’s what I see.

“Look up any goalie that’s played 10 games in the National Hockey League in the top 60 in save percentage,” Peters added. “I know who’s 60, and there’s 30 teams. Not good enough.”

Peters then looked toward the locker room and loudly said, “Make a (expletive) save!”

Peters, facing job uncertainty with new Carolina owner Tom Dundon and GM Don Waddell running the team, eventually opted out of his contract after the 2017-18 season and was quickly hired by the Flames. He led Calgary to the best record in the Western Conference last season, but the Flames were eliminated in the first round.

Calgary made a trade with Carolina at that summer’s draft, acquiring former Hurricanes draft picks Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin in exchange for Dougie Hamilton, Michael Ferland and prospect Adam Fox. Derek Ryan, who played for Peters in Spokane and was pursued by the Hurricanes on the recommendation of his former coach, signed as a free agent with the Flames that July.

Brind’Amour returned the Hurricanes to the playoffs for the first time in a decade in his first year as coach and guided Carolina to the Eastern Conference Final.

Since Peters left Raleigh, many on the Hurricanes’ payroll have been privately critical of how the coach treated people in the organization, while others called him the smartest coach they had worked under — though those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. There are not any known incidents involving racial slurs.