Calgary Flames’ Bill Peters Caught in a Firestorm

It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for Calgary Flames head coach, Bill Peters, after it was alleged he made racist remarks to a former player while coaching in the American Hockey League.

The allegations surfaced on Twitter during the second period of Monday night’s game between the Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flames had put together one of their better performances of the season in their overtime loss to the Pens, but no one wanted to talk about that. Peters, however, was not available for comment following the game to respond to the recent allegations and has yet to make any official statement in response to the tweets put out by former player, Akim Aliu.

Bill Peters Calgary Flames
Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Aliu, who appeared in seven games with the Calgary Flames from 2011-12 to 2012-13, alleged (via Twitter) that Peters used racial slurs against him during his time with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL back in 2009-10. He also cites that Peters tried to sabotage his career by requesting his demotion to the ECHL.

A Decade of Silence

Aliu was asked about why he waited 10 years to come forward, and he responded in an article by TSN’s, Frank Seravalli. “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. “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.”

Since the original tweet(s) from Aliu, other former players have come forward with allegations and stories of their own regarding the embattled Flames bench boss, as the social media firestorm has taken on a life of its own. Former Carolina Hurricanes player, Michal Jordan, added to the allegations by saying that Peters kicked him and also punched another player “in the head” during a game. (from ‘Calls for diversity, inclusion in sports amplified following Peters allegations,’ Calgary Herald, 11/26/2019)

Michal Jordan
Michal Jordan (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

While the Flames and the National Hockey League are continuing to look into all reports, the mounting allegations have many fans calling for Peters to be fired, immediately, regardless of the validity of the statements or the outcome of the investigations.

Already On the Hot Seat

In the tweet, Aliu mentions Mike Babcock, who was recently fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the Leafs underperforming this season, Babcock was certainly on the chopping block in Leafs land and probably the top coach on the hot seat, at the time. Almost in a parallel situation, the Flames were riding a seven-game losing streak and had fallen out of a playoff spot, so it’s not a big stretch to suggest that after Babcock, Peters was next in line as the most likely NHL coach to be fired. This line of reasoning is based solely on the play of the team, but obviously, allegations like these do not help Peters’ case moving forward.

Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL, Hockey
Mike Babcock (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Recently, accounts of certain coaching tactics used by Babcock with Mitch Marner have left people shaking their heads, and coincidentally, Peters has a lengthy history with Babcock, which includes playing for him at Red Deer College and coaching with him years later with the Detroit Red Wings. He has been referred to as a ‘Babcock disciple’ and his coaching style is somewhat reflective of that. Perhaps the recent events, both in Toronto and Calgary, would suggest that there is a purge going on within the collective hockey culture to disband, and distance itself from, an old regime of thought.

What the Players Are Saying

As if in front of a firing squad, various Flames players faced the media after Tuesday’s morning skate in Buffalo, fully aware that the focus would be solely on the Peters’ dilemma. With the full story still being determined, the interviews featured one carefully crafted response after another.

Flames defenseman, Oliver Kylington, expressed that he’d never witnessed anything like this during his time with the organization, stating he has always been ‘treated fairly’ and ‘respectfully’ within it. Flames captain, Mark Giordano, in an interview with Sportsnet said, while he respects the process happening right now, he believes everyone needs to be accountable for what they say. In this case…what was said a decade ago.

“The world we live in today, you have to be accountable,” Giordano told reporters. “We all know there’s no place for any of that sort of stuff in society. Also, you have to respect that the allegations are just that right now and you have to go through the process.”

Curtains for Peters in Calgary?

While the Flames are currently conducting an internal investigation into the matter, allegations of this nature now have many suggesting that this is the end of the road for Peters as head coach in Calgary. When the club hit the ice for morning skate in Buffalo, where they will face the Sabres on Wednesday night, it was assistant coach, Geoff Ward, running practice. Assistant general manager, Craig Conroy, also hit the ice to help facilitate practice on Tuesday. Peters remained at the hotel but has not yet been let go by the team, according to Flames GM, Brad Treliving, who spoke to reporters in Buffalo on Tuesday.

“Bill has not been relieved of his duties. We are continuing this ongoing investigation right now,” Treliving told reporters on Tuesday.

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Treliving announced on Tuesday evening that Peters will not be behind the bench for the Flames when they face the Sabres on Wednesday. Ward will run the bench in Peters’ absence. Treliving also added the team would not comment further on the matter until their “review is complete.”

While more evidence continues to be collected and with the accusations mounting, it seems difficult to imagine a scenario in which Peters retains his coaching position with the Flames.