Improving hockey culture to be discussed at NHL Board of Governors meetings

The panel updates news around the NHL including the upcoming board of governors meetings, and trade rumours surrounding Taylor Hall with the New Jersey Devils and Alex Galchenyuk on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Although specifics aren’t yet known, ideas for how to improve hockey culture will be discussed during the NHL’s Board of Governors meetings in San Francisco, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported during Hockey Night in Canada’s Headlines segment.

“The NHL has told teams to come to this meeting with ideas on ways to improve hockey culture,” Johnston said. “They want to have a discussion there, and obviously move things forward from where we’ve been the last couple weeks here.”

The meetings will be the first to take place since Bill Peters resigned as head coach of the Calgary Flames amid allegations from Akim Aliu, a former player, that Peters directed racial slurs toward him “several times” — which helped ignite conversations about racism, inequality and abuse in hockey.

As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted, the meetings will also be the first media availability for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly since Aliu’s allegations came to light.

The substance of the conversations that will take place when the Board of Governors convene, though, has largely been kept under lock and key.

“I do think that’s partially because we don’t necessarily expect to get hard answers here (or) a hard action plan this week,” Johnston said.

While the NHL Coaches’ Association, which represents the coaches, won’t be present at this meeting, they do expect to be looped in on the process with what is decided in San Francisco, Johnston noted.

Even with the absence of the NHL Coaches’ Association, Friedman is aware of some ideas that are believed to be candidates for what teams will bring to the table.

Among the possibilities, according to Friedman, is the idea of searching for roles for recently retired players from minority groups, and examining the NHL’s protocol for reporting possible instances of abuse.

“I think some of the things that are going to come up is you know, for more recently retired minority of players, is there a role for them to play?” Friedman said. “Also, there’s been a lot of controversy about Carolina and who knew what when, and who reported to who, when. I think the league is probably going to take that out of the team’s hands.”

The Carolina incident Friedman is referring to stems from a statement released by Ron Francis — now the general manager of the Seattle expansion team — addressing “physical incidents” involving Peters (then Carolina’s coach) and players on the Hurricanes during Francis’ tenure as team general manager.

“When I was general manager in Carolina,” Francis’ statement read, “after a game, a group of players and hockey staff members made me aware of the physical incidents involving two players and Bill Peters. I took this matter very seriously. I took immediate action to address the matter and briefed ownership. To my knowledge, no further such incidents occurred.”

The statement contradicted an interview Peter Karmanos, the former owner of the Hurricanes, gave with Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times in which Karmanos claimed he would have fired Peters “in a nanosecond” had Francis made him aware of the incidents.

The NHL’s Board of Governors meetings are slated to take place next week, on Dec. 9 and 10.

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