Former Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis spoke for the first time about the physical abuse allegations against Bill Peters when he served as head coach of the team.
In an interview with The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker, Francis, who is currently the GM of the NHL’s Seattle expansion franchise, explained why Peters was given a contract extension in 2016 even though management had earlier been made aware of physical incidents between two players and Peters during a game.
“We looked where the team was and how it was playing,” Francis told Baker. “It was moving in the right direction. We’d made a huge increase from where it was the year before to where we were that year. And quite honestly, we looked at that (physical-abuse) situation, we addressed it and we felt it was behind him.”
After Akim Aliu recently brought to light racist remarks made by Peters while the two were together in the AHL, former Hurricanes player Michal Jordan said on Twitter that Peters had also committed physical abuses toward him and another player during his time in Carolina — those accusations were later confirmed by current Carolina bench boss Rod Brind’Amour, who was an assistant at the time.
Although Aliu’s situation occurred years earlier, Francis says his coaching search before hiring Peters was thorough and nothing came up through that process to cause any concern.
“We did our due diligence,” Francis told The Times. “We talked to a lot of people, and there was nothing that popped up at that point.
“We took it (the player abuse) very seriously and addressed it.”
Although details of how the organization dealt with the situation haven’t been made clear, in a statement released Nov. 30, Francis acknowledged he didn’t take the complaints lightly at the time.
“When I was general manager in Carolina, 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.”
Brind’Amour also said management handled it directly and he never witnessed a similar incident again.
Former Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos said on Nov. 28 that he was never alerted to the physical abuse incidents, but if he had been, would have fired Peters “in a nanosecond.” In The Seattle Times interview, Francis said he stood by his statement.
Peters, who left Carolina in 2018 and became head coach of the Calgary Flames, resigned from that position on Nov. 29 after the Flames conducted an investigation into both past incidents.
At the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting this week, commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled a four-point plan to prevent and handle inappropriate conduct, which includes that every incident must be reported to the NHL’s top officials.