Former Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters hired by the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike22 days ago
For the first time since his dramatic exit from the Calgary Flames organization amidst allegations of past racial abuse by former player Akim Aliu, Bill Peters will be behind the bench in North America in 2023-24. Peters was announced as the new head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes at a press conference on Wednesday morning.
The Hurricanes’ interest in Peters was first reported a week ago by WHL reporter Gregg Drinnan in his Taking Note blog.
Peters, 58, has not coached a game in North America since Nov. 25, 2019, a 3-2 Flames road loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins. During that game, Aliu tweeted out his allegations against Peters.
Sportsnet’s site has a fairly succinct summary of how things unfolded:
Peters allegedly directed a racial slur toward Aliu “several times” while the two were together in the AHL. Aliu played for Peters when he was head coach of the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s AHL affiliate, for five games in the 2008-09 season and 48 games in 2009-10. Aliu also appeared in 13 games for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye in ’09-10.Michal Jordan, who played for Peters with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, also alleged Peters kicked him and punched another unnamed player during a game.The NHL said in 2021 it had completed an investigation of Peters.
Peters was initially sent home by the Flames as they conducted an investigation. The initial Aliu tweets were on a Monday, and Peters formally resigned as head coach the following Friday, replaced on an interim basis by associate coach Geoff Ward.
Speaking to the media a week after Peters’ resignation from the Flames following a Board of Governors meeting (on Dec. 9, 2019), NHL commissioner Gary Bettman summed up the situation like so at the end of more extensive comments:
Not everyone will approve of every coach’s methods. However, there are lines that cannot be crossed – clearly physical abuse and racial and homophobic language cross the line. And while we acknowledge that there may be other actions that could cross the line or fall in a gray area, we hope the program we create, and its attendant consciousness-raising will help better define what is and what is not acceptable conduct and will make for a better playing and coaching environment. Over time, we have been able to change the culture of our game as it relates to substance abuse and player safety. And while we have taken many important steps forward on diversity and inclusiveness, as well as respect and professionalism in hockey, we intend to do more and faster.Calgary’s response initially to Akim Aliu’s allegations and then the Carolina issue, was timely, professional and appropriate. While none of Bill Peters’ inappropriate conduct occurred on the Flames’ watch, they undertook the important effort to try to understand what happened 10 years ago and thereafter. Once Calgary could satisfy itself as to what transpired, they achieved an appropriate result and I commend the Calgary organization and in particular, Brad Treliving, for their efforts and cooperation. I think it is pretty fair to say that from now on when a Club is hiring a coach, the due diligence a team conducts will go to levels never seen before. And, that is a good thing.
On Wednesday, prior to the announcement, Aliu shared a statement on social media:
In the media release announcing Peters’ hiring, a statement from WHL commissioner Rob Robison was included:
WHL Commissioner Ron Robison is satisfied Peters has taken the necessary steps required to return to coaching in the WHL.“After a thorough review, speaking with representatives from Shades of Humanity, and receiving a commitment from Bill to continue on his path of anti-racism, self-growth and redemption, the WHL is satisfied Bill is ready to return to coaching in the WHL,” Robison said. “The journey towards individual and systemic equity learning should be viewed as an ongoing process. Bill has demonstrated that through this process and the WHL remains committed to systemic change through continued education.”
Since his departure from the NHL, Peters spent the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg of the Kontinental Hockey League, though he was fired from that position with 22 games remaining in his season season. He spent 2022-23 as director of personnel with the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Peters has also served as head coach of the University of Lethbridge (USports; 2002-05), Spokane Chiefs (WHL; 2005-08), Rockford Ice Hogs (AHL; 2008-11) and Carolina Hurricanes (NHL; 2014-18).
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