Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters has resigned amid allegations of racial slurs and physical abuse of players in previous jobs.
General manager Brad Treliving said Friday at a press conference in Calgary that Peters voluntarily sent him a resignation letter earlier that morning.
“The subject matter we’ve been dealing with over the last few days is difficult, it’s hard, and it does not in any way reflect the core values of the Calgary Flames,” Treliving said.
Geoff Ward will take over as interim head coach. Ward had been acting as caretaker head coach while Peters was sidelined during investigations into the allegations and led the Flames to a 3-2 overtime win at Buffalo on Wednesday.
Peters’ resignation comes after former NHL player Akim Aliu tweeted Monday night that he had a racial slur directed his way by a former coach in 2009-10 while a member of the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs.
The 30-year-old Aliu, a player of colour, never referred to Peters by name, but did reference Calgary’s airport code “YYC” when writing about the alleged coach involved in the matter.
Then on Tuesday, former NHL defenceman Michal Jordan alleged Peters kicked him while the two were with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Peters’ resignation comes after a lengthy process that included investigations by the Flames and the NHL.
“I’ve been criticized a lot over the past three to four days that things have not moved quickly,” Treliving said. “If I’ve not met anyone’s time agenda I apologize but it was more important to make sure we get all of the information.”
“I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes,” he added. “I was flying without a compass here. We did the best we could. We tried to get all the information that we could.”
The NHL said in a statement that its review of the incident is ongoing and that interviews with “relevant individuals” including Aliu are scheduled.
Treliving did not say whether the Flames were still required to honour any part of Peters’ contract. Peters was in the second year of a three-year deal that is worth a reported US$6 million, according to the website Capfriendly.com
The controversy came to light Monday when Aliu made a comment on social media about the firing of Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. Aliu, who was born in Nigeria and raised in Ukraine and Canada, tweeted: “Not very surprising the things we’re hearing about Babcock. Apple doesn’t fall far from the Tree, same sort of deal with his protege in YYC. 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.”
Jordan detailed two accounts of physical abuse by Peters during their time in Carolina.
“Never wish anything bad to the person but you get what you deserve Bill,” Jordan said on Twitter. “After years making it to the NHL had experience with the worst coach ever by far. Kicking me and punching other player to the head during the game then pretending like nothing happened…couldn’t believe my eyes what can happen in the best league.
“Happy that I don’t have to go through that stuff on daily basis anymore.”
Former Hurricanes assistant and current Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour confirmed Wednesday that Jordan’s story was accurate, but added: “It was definitely dealt with, in my opinion, correctly.”
The initial accusation from Aliu came while Calgary was on the ice in Pittsburgh facing the Penguins. Peters wasn’t made available to reporters post-game.
Aliu told TSN on Tuesday that Peters used a racial slur repeatedly to complain about his choice of pre-game music. Two Rockford players confirmed Aliu’s account to TSN.
Peters did not lead Tuesday’s practice and wasn’t behind the bench for the Flames on Wednesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
Peters issued an apology in a letter addressed to Treliving on Wednesday night.
The apology did not mention Aliu, who released his own statement on Twitter on Thursday calling Peters’ letter “misleading, insincere and concerning.”
A native of Three Hills, Alta., Peters is 198-175-64 in five-plus seasons as an NHL head coach with Calgary and the Carolina Hurricanes. The 53-year-old’s only trip to the playoffs was last spring’s five-game upset at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche after the Flames finished second in the NHL’s overall standings with 107 points.
Calgary currently sits 12-12-4, tied on points with Vegas for the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
Aliu’s allegation came on the heels of reported controversial tactics used on rookies by Babcock, who was fired by the Maple Leafs last Wednesday.
The Toronto Sun and Postmedia reported Babcock asked a rookie to draw up a list during the 2016-17 season that ranked his teammates from hardest- to least-hardest working. Babcock then shared that list with some of the veterans at the bottom of the ledger.
It was later revealed the rookie in question was star winger Mitch Marner, who struggled at times under Babcock during his first season, but put up a career-high 94 points in 2018-19.
Peters served as Babcock’s assistant with the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs in the late 1990s. He was Spokane’s head coach for three seasons beginning in 2005-06 and was Rockford’s bench boss from 2008-09 to 2010-11.
He rejoined Babcock as an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings from 2011-12 to 2013-14 before getting the top job in Carolina.
Internationally, Peters led Canada’s gold-medal winning teams at the 2008 under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the 2016 world championships. He was an assistant at the 2015 world and on Babcock’s staff at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Peters was also bench boss of the Canadian squad at the 2018 worlds.
Aliu, who played 14 games for the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears in 2018-19, suited up for 48 games under Peters with the IceHogs in 2009-10, and 13 more with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye.
The IceHogs are the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, who selected Aliu with the 56th pick in the 2007 NHL draft out of the Ontario Hockey League.