Despite everything, Akim Aliu still believes in second chances and forgiveness for his former coach Bill Peters, who used a racial slur directed at him when they were with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs.
“Hockey is for all,” Aliu tweeted Thursday morning in response to the news that Peters signed a two-year deal with the KHL’s Yekaterinburg Avtomobilist. “I believe in second chances for everyone, that we can all find forgiveness in our heart, and that real, positive change is coming if we continue to push forward together.
“I don’t resent a man for finding work, but I will fight to make sure those same opportunities are available to everyone, on and off the ice, regardless of race or ethnicity.”
In November, Peters resigned as coach of the Flames after Aliu revealed on Twitter that he “dropped the N-bomb several times towards me in the dressing room.” It then surfaced that the ex-NHL coach was physically abusive; former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan, whom Peters coached from 2014-16 in Carolina, accused Peters of kicking him during an unspecified game.
Peters claimed the Aliu incident was an “isolated event” in a letter he wrote before his resignation, adding: “I have regretted the (Aliu) incident since it happened, and I now also apologize to anyone negatively affected by my words. I am aware that there is no excuse for language that is offensive. I meant no disrespect in what I said, and it was not directed at anyone in particular. But, that doesn’t matter; it was hurtful and demeaning. I am truly sorry.”
Aliu called Peters’ apology at the time “misleading, insincere and concerning.”
On a call Wednesday with reporters Peters said, “I think as time goes on, we all grow and improve and become better versions of ourselves, and I’m no different than that. You learn from all the experiences that you’re in, and you become better.”
Both Flames interim coach Geoff Ward, who was an assistant under Peters, and general manager Brad Treliving noted it was good to see him getting a second chance.
“Billy is a good coach. He made a mistake, but he’s an awful good man, in spite of the fact the mistake did happen,” Ward told TSN’s Jermain Franklin, adding, “I think he’s done some things to atone for what occurred. … Seeing that and people recognizing that, I think are important. So, now the fact that he’s getting another opportunity to go and do what he loves, and that’s coach, it’s nice to see. As I said, I’m sure he will be successful there.”
Treliving told reporters on Thursday, “I’m a big believer in second chances for anyone and everyone. Bill made a mistake, he said he made a mistake. I know he’s making amends to make up for that. He’s a good coach. Bill’s a good man. He made an error. … Not everything we do is something right and we just hope people have grace for us, and we wish him well there.”
Aliu also added on Twitter that he is still waiting for the outcome of the NHL’s investigation. He met with commissioner Gary Bettman in December to discuss changes he would like to see the sport make to be more diverse, safer and accountable.
“Only with the past behind us can we focus on the future,” Aliu’s tweet on Thursday said. “That means bringing hockey to the underprivileged youth in order to make the game more diverse, affordable and accessible to all regardless of race, gender and economic background. Stay Tuned #TimeToDream”
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