Flames head coach Bill Peters apologizes for Akim Aliu incident

Flames GM Brad Treliving talks with the media about receiving a statement from Bill Peters.

BUFFALO – Bill Peters made his first public comments on the Akim Aliu racism allegations Wednesday night, expressing his regrets and taking responsibility for what he said.

The Calgary Flames head coach, who left the team Wednesday morning while the club and league investigate the allegations, contacted sportsnet.ca once he landed in Calgary with a statement he issued as part of a letter to GM Brad Treliving.

“Please accept this as a sincere apology to you, and the entire Calgary Flames organization, for offensive language I used in a professional setting a decade ago,” wrote Peters, who had been shielded from the media since the ordeal began Monday.

“I know that my comments have been the source of both anger and disappointment, and I understand why. Although it was an isolated and immediately regrettable incident, I take responsibility for what I said. The statement was made in a moment of frustration and does not reflect my personal values. After the incident, I was rightfully challenged about my use of language, and I immediately returned to the dressing room to apologize to the team. I have regretted the 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. I accept the reality of my actions. I do believe that we must strive to act with integrity, and to take accountability for what we say and do. This letter is intended to do exactly that; I hope it is accepted as intended.

“I appreciate the thorough review of this situation being undertaken by the Flames. It’s the right thing to do, and I support it fully.”

He signed the letter at the bottom.

Minutes after Calgary’s 3-2 overtime win over the Sabres, a mere 20 minutes after receiving the letter, Treliving acknowledged receiving it and addressed the small media contingent at KeyBank Center.

“Earlier this evening we received a letter from Bill Peters – a statement in the form of a letter to me, released through the media,” said Treliving, choosing his words carefully.

“It has been a difficult three days for everyone. We’ve tried to be as transparent as possible. This investigation we’re doing … I know everyone wants everything done immediately, and the world we live in is immediate.

“We are not trying to stall or take time or drag our feet. It’s a serious matter and it’s involving serious subject matter and I just want to make sure we are doing a thorough job in looking under every stone, rock and doing all things that need to be done.

“This letter tonight is part of this we’ll obviously review. And I’m hopeful we’ll have an update (Thursday). I’m always hesitant to put timelines. But I just hope people can appreciate we’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure we do this right and get all the information we can.”

Although staying at the team hotel in Buffalo for several days, Peters was kept away from the team while the investigation involving the Flames and the league was ongoing into allegations by Aliu a decade ago while Peters was coaching the winger in the AHL.

Immediate reaction to the letter on social media had some critical that Peters omitted Aliu’s name in the letter.

The investigation looking into the Rockford incident and allegations Peters also physically abused two players while coaching Carolina has taken so long due to the legalities involved. The omission of Aliu’s name likely had plenty to do with the legal advice he’s received.

When asked by sportsnet.ca if he’d like to respond to Peters’s apology to the team, Aliu declined.

Representatives from the league, the Flames, Peters and others all have a stake in ensuring there aren’t legal ramifications moving forward if this isn’t handled with the utmost care.

And so the drama continues to hang over a team that somehow managed to snag the overtime win against Buffalo after an Elias Lindholm goal.

The Flames train wreck of a season has seen them punctuate a recent six-game losing string with five points of a possible six in their last three road games.

And just like that they’re in a playoff spot.

However, the narrative surrounding them will continue to revolve around the off-ice issue that had Geoff Ward behind the Flames bench on Wednesday. Assistant GM Craig Conroy made his assistant coaching debut behind the bench, alongside Martin Gelinas, who generally watches from the press box.

Ward, who ran practice Tuesday, said earlier in the day he hasn’t been told anything about his role moving forward, as technically Peters is still the coach.

For just how long is anyone’s guess.

A day off for the players Thursday would be an opportune time to rip the band-aid off this regrettable situation by shielding the players from the inevitable parting of ways with the coach.

The Flames host Ottawa on Saturday.

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