Calgary Flames investigate allegations of racism
Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters stands behind Andrew Mangiapane (88) during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. The Penguins won in overtime 3-2. | Gene J. Puskar / AP

Following the Calgary Flames’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday, Flames general manager Brad Treliving said the team has begun investigations into an accusation that head coach Bill Peters directed racial slurs towards a Nigerian-born player ten years ago while in the minor leagues, later arraigning the player’s demotion after he raised concerns.

“During tonight’s game, I was made aware of a tweet from former player Akim Aliu,” said Treliving to reporters. “Obviously, we’re playing, so I haven’t had a chance to sit down with Bill [Peters] or our people internally to talk about this and get to the bottom of it. I would say we take these matters very, very seriously.”

When further pressed by reporters, Treliving ended the post-game press conference saying, “And, like I said, haven’t had a chance to talk to Bill, I will be doing that. And until such time we won’t have a further comment about it. But we will address it and get back to you people once we have a chance to speak internally.”

Akim Aliu tweeted Monday afternoon 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 continued saying he was the first player who “rebelled against him” and instead of addressing the issue, he wrote to Chicago Blackhawk executives John McDonough and Stan Bowman to send him down to the minors.

Aliu’s tweet did not name Peters but referred to a “protégé” of ex-Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock’s who’s now in Calgary. Peters was mentored by Babcock since his days as a college hockey player.

Aliu played seven NHL games over two seasons with the Flames and played under Peters in the Blackhawks system with the Rockford Icehogs of the American Hockey League during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

Peters was not made available to speak with reporters after the game.

This is just the latest example of racism within the NHL—the last major sports league to integrate. Sports Business Daily found that less than five percent of NHL players were people of color.

And, sadly, racism in hockey does not just stick to the major league. Back in January, NPR reported 13-year-old Divyne Apollon II, was playing in a Maryland hockey tournament when the opposing team hurled racist insults and made “monkey noises.”

And the list keeps going:

After sixty years, the plague of racism still permeates the NHL. By now, one would think, the solution would be clear: A zero-tolerance policy on racism. Toss out and ban all racist hockey fans for life (the same goes for coaches, GMs, and players).

The next move is all yours NHL commissioner Gary Bettman…choose wisely.


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.