NHL Investigating Alleged Racial Incident Involving Flames Coach, Ex-NHL Player

Getty Images_Bruce Bennett(1)
Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

The NHL is investigating an alleged racial incident involving Nigerian-born player Akim Aliu, and Flames coach Bill Peters.

Aliu, 30, who has played on a number of teams but spent only a short time in the big leagues, had reported being assailed by the N-word when he was playing for the Rockford Ice Hogs during the 2009-10 season.

The one-time Calgary Flames player insists that the Hogs’ coach, who was then Bill Peters, told him to stop playing his music in the locker room but reportedly used a racial epithet to do so.

“He walked in before a morning pre-game skate and said, ‘Hey, Akim, I’m sick of you playing that n—– s—,'” Aliu told TSN. “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,” Aliu concluded.

According to TSN, two of Aliu’s teammates, Simon Pepin and Peter MacArthur, have backed up Aliu’s allegation of Peters and his untoward language.

Pepin even said he feels “everyone should be held accountable for their actions or words spoken.”

Aliu also alleged that team captain Jake Dowell confronted Peters over his outburst. Still, there is no further information about what may have resulted in that meeting, and Dowell has only said in public that he will cooperate in any investigation.

Peters, who is currently the Flames’ coach, was said to have doubled down when Aliu spoke privately to him. Aliu said that Peter’s repeated his words, saying, “You know, I’m just sick of this n—– s—. It’s every day. From now on, we need to play different music.”

With the allegations out in the open, the Flames say that Peters is now under a microscope, and it is opening an investigation into the ten-year-old incident. But the coach is not being penalized in any way right now.

“Bill has not been relieved of his duties. We are continuing this ongoing investigation right now,” Flames GM Brad Treliving said.” The serious nature of this is not lost on us, we take it with extreme seriousness.”

The Ice Hogs is an affiliate with the Chicago Blackhawks, and the big league team also posted a statement on Tuesday saying they take the allegations seriously.

“The alleged actions by a former coach toward while with the Rockford IceHogs are something we take seriously,” the Chicago team said in a statement. “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.”

Aliu, who is currently a free agent and spent part of last season with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, feels that his hockey career was hindered because of the incident with Peters back in 2009.

“This isn’t me being bitter. I sat on this a really, really long time. It broke my heart. I think it made my career go downhill before it started,” Aliu said about why he is coming forward now. “This isn’t to the degree of Kaepernick by any means, but if you play the race card, it’s most likely the end of your career.”

Aliu also insists he did not make a big deal about it in 2009 because he worried about retaliation.

“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.”

But he also said he feels that Peters took action against him just the same.

“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 told TSN. “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.”

Aliu also said on Twitter that he rebelled against his coach after becoming bitter about the music incident.

Ultimately, Aliu said that what he wants is Peters to admit what he did.

“It’s tough to sit here while he just keeps climbing the ranks. After that incident, I got zero opportunity,” Aliu exclaimed. “I’ve made peace with it. I hope he’s honest and admits what happened.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on facebook.com/Warner.Todd.Huston.

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