BUFFALO — Brad Treliving has spoken to the accuser and the accused, the league and team management.
He’s spoken to former players, current players and anyone else he figured would help him navigate through the unenviable position of determining Bill Peters’ fate.
Given the explosiveness of the racial allegations made by former player Akim Aliu against Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters, and the cloud that will heretofore follow the coach and the Flames as long as they employ him, the conclusion seems obvious.
Alas, it’s clearly not that cut and dried.
Despite the fact Peters was not on the ice for Flames practice in Buffalo Tuesday afternoon, nor will he be behind the bench during Wednesday’s game, the Flames GM insisted his investigation is ongoing.
“Bill has not been relieved of his duties,” Treliving told reporters.
“We are continuing this ongoing investigation right now. We hope to have this completed quickly, but it has to be thorough. It has to be thorough and it has to be done correctly. I’m not about to comment on anything halfway through or give tidbits or give sound bites at this point, other than to say the serious nature of this is not lost on us. We take it with extreme seriousness.
“This is a subject matter that has no place in our organization. Throughout the evening last night and into this morning, we were starting an investigation into the incident. The purpose of me coming to you here today is we have not completed that. We’re trying to be as transparent as possible and to update you.”
Being thorough and fair is indeed what everyone would hope their employer would extend to employees of all walks of life.
There are endless legal ramifications surrounding the situation, let alone moral guides.
The Flames GM spoke to Aliu late Monday to get details of what allegedly transpired before a morning skate 10 years ago between Aliu and Peters in Rockford. Aliu told Sportsnet.ca Tuesday morning he took the call “out of respect.”
A man of many enemies as an old-school coach, Peters clearly had one too many, leading to a series of tweets and interviews from Aliu that has painted the sixth-year bench boss in a horrific light.
Peters has yet to comment publicly, as the Flames wisely shielded him from the media following the team’s loss in Pittsburgh after Aliu took to Twitter to share his story.
“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 tweeted. “First one to admit I rebelled against him. Wouldn’t you? And instead of remedying the situation, he wrote a letter to John McDonough and Stan Bowman to have me sent down to the ECHL. 20 year old on pace for 20 goals in his first pro year with zero PP/PK time was off to a great start in his pro career.”
Weeks later Aliu was indeed sent down to the ECHL.
There are two sides to every story, but how the Flames can spin a positive response to this is anyone’s guess.
A straight denial seems like it wouldn’t cut it. Taking the moral high ground seems the only thing to do.
Then again, what’s also morally correct is giving Peters the benefit of the doubt until a thorough investigation is complete.
You can imagine the league would certainly have a hard time with the situation moving forward status quo, reminding fans earlier in the day, “The behavior that has been alleged is repugnant and unacceptable.”
It seems just a matter of time before the Flames feel it’s simply easier to move on, even if that means buying out the rest of Peters’ contract and citing his failure to coach the team to a winning record 26 games in.
Happens all over the league every year.
The fact that the Flames have lost seven of their last eight would make that narrative easier.
Where it would leave Peters would be unfortunate, which is why even the coach’s harshest critics have to admire the Flames’ decision to shortchange expediency with an eye on doing Peters and the situation right.
Just a handful of days earlier Treliving had given Peters a vote of confidence despite the club’s six losses in a row.
The rationale was that, unlike the Toronto Maples Leafs’ decision to turf Mike Babcock after an identical free fall, the Flames couldn’t keep turning over coaches like they have of late.
For those keeping track, that’s three coaches Treliving has signed and fired in the past five years – hardly a recipe for stability.
Prior to these allegations, many figured a Peters firing would ultimately coincide with a Treliving ousting, as few GMs get three coaching mulligans.
Alas, on this set of mitigating circumstances Treliving would ultimately get a pass.
Treliving was signed to a contract extension last month, giving him plenty of rope.
The Flames’ community-minded ownership group most certainly cringed at having to deal with the topic in its own organization – a team that was led for the better part of two decades by captain and Hall of Fame-bound Jarome Iginla.
Aliu, now 30, was a Flames prospect for several years after the alleged incident between him and Peters while the coach oversaw Chicago’s affiliate in Rockford of the AHL.
Peters was brought in by the Flames in the summer of 2018 to be harder on the players than Glen Gulutzan was in Calgary over the previous two seasons.
The idea was that he wouldn’t be quite as hard, though, as Gulutzan’s predecessor Bob Hartley.
Clearly, the old school way of coaches manipulating players by way of power games and intimidation is on the wane.
Players make too much money to be bullied by coaches of any tenure.
In the hours following last night’s allegations by Aliu, Sportsnet.ca has received several stories from players who did not appreciate Peters and his ways.
Now is not the time to pile on.
It’s important to note, none of the other stories involve racist claims.
On Tuesday, other former players of Peters’ shared their stories on social media, including Sean McMorrow, who played for Peters in Rockford in 2008-09.
“If you think Mike Commodore had harsh words for Babcock you are in for a treat to hear what I would have to say about Bill Peters,” he posted on Twitter.
“Worst human being to ever coach me … treated me terrible on a AHL team (IceHogs) where I won a League Award for Community Service.”
Coaches don’t get fired merely for being too hard or unpopular with players.
There are personality clashes in every dressing room.
For fear of being tainted as a problem or distraction, players don’t generally air such frustrations publicly until their careers are over. Aliu’s hockey career, which included seven NHL games, ended last year with the East Coast League’s Orlando Solar Bears.
He now lives in Toronto, where he spent most of his youth after being born in Nigeria.