Flames coach Peters apologizes to black player for language


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters acknowledged in a letter of apology on Friday that he used offensive language in dealing with a Nigerian-born player 10 years ago in the minors.

The letter was addressed to Flames general manager Brad Treliving and obtained by TSN, a Canadian sports cable network.

Without specifically revealing the words he used, Peters wrote his comments to Akim Aliu were the source of both anger and disappointment in the letter, which was posted to Twitter. He added he made the comments in a “moment of frustration” and that his words didn’t mirror his “personal values.”

Peters said he regretted the incident and apologized to anyone negatively affected by it.

The letter was released while Peters is away from the team while the Flames and the NHL conduct an investigation into allegations he used racial slurs in a confrontation with Aliu.

In another development Wednesday, Peters was accused of punching and kicking players while he was Carolina’s coach.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said “for sure that happened,” backing a former player’s complaints about Peters physically going after his own players behind the bench during his four seasons in Carolina from 2014-18.

Brind’Amour’s comments increased the scrutiny on Peters, whose future in Calgary remains in question.

Before issuing the letter, Peters had not commented or been with his team over the past two days while the NHL and the team investigate allegations made by Aliu, who said Peters “dropped the N bomb several times” because he didn’t like the player’s choice of music. The alleged confrontation happened during the 2009-10 season while the two were with the Chicago Blackhawks’ minor league affiliate in Rockford, Illinois.

Peters traveled with the team to Buffalo on Tuesday, a day after Aliu posted his allegations on Twitter. But Peters’ whereabouts were unknown with the Flames only saying he wouldn’t be behind the bench for Calgary’s game at Buffalo on Wednesday night. Associate coach Geoff Ward served as coach.

Brind’Amour, who was an assistant on Peters’ staff, said he was proud of the way players and support staff handled what happened by immediately bringing their concerns to team officials.

“Management handled it directly and never heard of it again and never saw anything else after that,” said Brind’Amour, who spoke to reporters in New York before the Hurricanes’ game against the Rangers. “So it was definitely dealt with, in my opinion, correctly. … We’ve definitely moved past that.”

Brind’Amour took over as coach after Peters opted out of his contract following the 2017-18 season. Peters was then immediately hired by the Flames, where he led the team to a 50-win season and a Pacific Division title in his first year.

Flames GM Treliving is overseeing the investigation into Peters, and on Tuesday said he’s spoken to the coach and Aliu plus many others. Treliving was not made available for comment Wednesday.

Ward and Flames players attempted to place the focus on the game, not Peters.

“I don’t have any comment about that, I’m just here to talk about hockey,” Ward said. “Everything else will be decided when everybody’s done their due diligence on it.”

Ward said the Flames have not informed him what his role would be beyond coaching Wednesday’s game, his first as an NHL head coach. He has more than 25 years of coaching experience and joined Peters’ staff this season after spending the past three years as an assistant in New Jersey.

“We all feel for everybody involved. It’s not a perfect situation,” Ward said. “We’ll worry about the next step once we get through this game today.”

The Flames beat Buffalo 3-2 in overtime. Calgary, which had been 1-5-2 in its past eight games, opens a three-game homestand Saturday against Ottawa.

“All this extraneous stuff that’s going on, we’re just not even thinking about it,” center Derek Ryan said. “As professional athletes, we go through different situations throughout the year where we have to block stuff out. And we’re just trying to keep that as another one of those situations.”


AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.


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FILE – In this Oct. 25, 2019, file photo, Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters watches practice in Regina, Saskatchewan, ahead of the NHL Heritage Classic outdoor hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets. Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving said the team is looking into an accusation that head coach Bill Peters directed racial slurs toward a Nigerian-born hockey player a decade ago in the minor leagues, then arranged for the player’s demotion when he complained. Akim Aliu tweeted Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, 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.” (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press via AP, File)