SAN JOSE, Calif. —As more stories have emerged in recent days about coaching misdeeds, Sharks forward Evander Kane said it’s important to distinguish between the incident involving former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock and Mitch Marner and the allegation of racist language used by Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters.
“They’re very different situations,” Kane said. “The Babcock situation, I guess he was using it as some sort of tactic or motivational tool. Obviously, I don’t think there are that many people who would agree with it, but that’s more of coaching situation if you will.
“With the Peters situation, it was racial slurs that were uttered in a real derogatory way, allegedly. Two very different situations. I don’t agree with a part of the hockey world trying to conjoin the two because they’re so different and the severity of them is so lopsided.”
Earlier this week, it was reported that during the 2016-17 season, Babcock had asked forward Marner —then a rookie —to rate his Maple Leafs teammates from hardest working to ones that did not share the same work ethic.
Marner obliged, not wanting to upset his then-coach, but his opinions were later shared by Babcock with those who were least-favorably judged.
After hearing that story, former NHL player Akim Aliu, who was born in Nigeria and raised in Canada, wrote on his Twitter account Monday that during the 2009-10 season when he was with the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL, Babcock’s “protege” —referring to Peters —repeatedly used a racial slur “in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music.”
In its report published Tuesday, TSN spoke to two Rockford players who were in the room at the time of the incident and corroborated Aliu’s story.
While Babcock later apologized to Marner for the incident, Peters, according to Aliu, never took back what he said. Aliu told TSN that Peters called him into his office after the incident in the locker room and instead of apologizing, said another racial epithet.
Later Tuesday, former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan tweeted that Peters kicked and punched him and other players on the bench. Current Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said Tuesday the allegation was true.
Peters remained the Flames’ coach as of early Wednesday afternoon, although Calgary general manager Brad Treliving said the team is conducting an investigation. Peters was not behind the bench for the Flames’ game against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
This isn’t a case of old school vs. new school. Some lines should never be crossed, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said Wednesday.
“The world’s changing. I’ve got three kids, and they grew up in a totally different world than I grew up in. We all have to change with that,” DeBoer said. “At the same time, there’s not excuse for racism or physical abuse anywhere in the world. Now, and there wasn’t 10 years ago, either. I don’t think that’s changed.”
DeBoer looks back at his quarter-century in coaching and although he feels there were times when he could have handled situations with players differently, he was never malicious in his intent.
“I think there’s an evolution on all fronts in hockey,” DeBoer said. “Players have had an evolution, so have coaches, so have management. All I can do is speak for what we do every day, and we come in here every day and we’re in charge of motivating and pushing people out of their comfort zone to get the most out of them.
“It’s not an easy job and there are some days you walk away and go, ‘Geez, I think I could have done a better job in that situation,’ or ‘Maybe I could have handled that a little but better.’ But the motivation is always to make the group better, to make the team better, to make the individual better and to help us win hockey games.
“We’re human, we make mistakes. But you’ve got to trust in what you’re doing there every day. I think experience helps you. You learn from the things you did well, or you didn’t do well.”