Bill Peters is out as Calgary Flames coach, four days after a former player came forward and said the coach directed racial epithets toward him while they were in the minors 10 years ago.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, Flames general manager Brad Treliving said Peters resigned.
“Effective immediately, Bill Peters is no longer a member of the Calgary Flames organization,” Treliving said.
Akim Aliu said on Twitter on Monday night that Peters “dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music.”
Aliu played for Peters in 2009-10 with the Rockford Ice Hogs, the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. On Wednesday, Peters acknowledged the incident in a letter of apology, which he sent to Treliving. Peters said the comments were made in a “moment of frustration.”
“Although it was an isolated and immediately regrettable incident, I take responsibility for what I said,” Peters wrote.
Aliu on Thursday issued a statement saying he found Peters’ letter of apology to the Flames “misleading, insincere and concerning.” Aliu added that he would have no further comment until he met with the NHL as part of its investigation of the incident.
Peters had been absent from the team for the past two days — including the Flames’ overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night — as Treliving conducted what he called Wednesday a “thorough investigation.” Peters traveled with the team to Buffalo, but assistant coach Geoff Ward assumed head-coaching duties. Ward was named interim head coach on Friday.
“It’s been a difficult time, but we’re going to move forward,” Treliving said Friday.
Treliving said he spoke with Aliu as part of his probe.
“This investigation we’re doing, I know everyone wants this done immediately and the world we live in is immediate,” Treliving told reporters Wednesday night. “I hope you can appreciate we’re trying to do everything we possibly can to make sure we get it right and get all the information that needs to be gotten.”
Peters, 53, was in his second season as Flames head coach. He previously coached the Carolina Hurricanes, 2014-18.
After Aliu came forward, other details about Peters’ conduct as a coach came to light, including allegations that he punched and kicked players while on the bench as the Hurricanes coach.
Current Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour, then an assistant on Peters’s staff, told reporters this week that the incident “for sure happened.”
“Management handled it directly and never heard of it again and never saw anything else after that,” Brind’Amour said. “So it was definitely dealt with, in my opinion, correctly … We’ve definitely moved past that.”
Former Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, who sold the team two years ago, told the Seattle Times on Wednesday night that he would have fired Peters “in a nanosecond” had he been made aware of the players’ allegations by then-general manager Ron Francis.
“I’m pretty upset,” Karmanos told the Seattle Times. “And I have my calls in to Ronnie as well. I think he’s the one who’s going to have to tell people what he did when he found out that the coach had done these things.”
Francis is now the general manager of the Seattle team slated to begin play in the NHL in 2021-22.
Peters opted out of his contract with the Hurricanes following the 2017-18 season.
TSN published a story on Tuesday in which two of Aliu’s Rockford teammates — Simon Pepin and Peter MacArthur — corroborated his account. Aliu also spoke to TSN further about the incident, saying he was in charge of the music in the locker room for morning skate, when Peters walked in. According to Aliu’s account to TSN, Peters said: “I’m sick of hearing this n—–s f—ing other n—–s in the a– stuff.”
“He then walked out like nothing ever happened,” Aliu told TSN. “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.”
When asked why he waited so long to come forward, Aliu told TSN, “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. This isn’t to the degree of [Colin] Kaepernick by any means, but if you play the race card, it’s most likely the end of your career.”
In a statement, the Blackhawks said: “The purported incident had not been reported or brought to our attention prior to (Monday) and had no effect on any player personnel decision regarding Mr. Aliu.”
Aliu, now 30, was born in Nigeria but grew up in Ukraine and Canada. He most recently played for the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL in 2018-19 but is now a free agent, living in Toronto.