Players speak out against racism in hockey in wake of Calgary Flames coach allegations
TORONTO -- Current and former hockey players are speaking out against racism in their sport, in the wake of accusations of blatant racism and abusive behaviour by Calgary Flames’ head coach Bill Peters.
In an explosive tweet earlier in the week, former NHL player Akim Aliu accused Peters of “dropping the N-word several times towards me in the dressing room.”
An internal team inquiry was kicked off after others came forward with accusations that Peters -- while he was head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes -- kicked and punched another in the head. This was confirmed by Hurricanes’ head coach Rod Brind’Amour, who was an assistant at the time.
TSN Sports reporter Frank Seravalli told CTV News this is “really hockey's watershed moment.”
He explained that, far too often in the minor leagues all the way up to the NHL, there’s a culture of silence in dressing rooms which allows for bullying and racism to fester.
“I think we're starting to see that façade crack and more to the power of the players moving forward, as they continue to find their voice and use it,” Seravalli said.
In a written statement from Peters, he defended himself saying his use of the N-word “was made in a moment of frustration and does not reflect my personal values.” He said he regretted the incident and wrote, “I now also apologize to anyone negatively affected by my words.”
So as the NHL team investigates explosive allegations of racism, the question remains whether Peters will soon be out of a job.
He’s been out of sight for two days and wasn’t behind the bench on the Flames’ faced off against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
PLAYERS OF COLOUR SAY RACISM IS COMMON IN HOCKEY
While the accusations have rocked the world of hockey, for players of colour, racist behaviours on and off the ice in general are nothing new.
Ontario minor league player Zach Sukumaran alleges that an opposing Woodville Hurricanes player told him: “Go back to where you came from, you immigrant.”
And he said this wasn't the first time that particular slur has been hurled at him. “That type of racism was never supposed to be part of the sport,” Sukumaran said.
His father, Sanj, said in order to get rid of bullying and hate speech, more people need to know it’s happening. “It's not a top-of-mind topic and when it happens, we're all taken by surprise,” he said.
Former NHL player Georges Laraque told CTV News Channel called the current controversy surrounding Peters “astonishing.”
“A coach is supposed to be the leader of a team,” he said. ‘You (players) want to fight, you want to bleed for them, you want to win for them.”
“The Flames have no choice but to fire him and the NHL has to take a stand,” Laraque said. He said this was especially true if the league professes that the sport is for everyone.
He also said that the stories from a decade ago coming out now harkens back to the way that long-standing allegations against women broke during the #MeToo movement.
Laraque said that it was only after victims were brave enough to take their allegations public that others joined them in solidarity and shared their own stories.
“(Aliu) thought maybe this is the time that people will listen to my story and (I can) release this frustration inside of me,” he said. “Often victims keep things inside thinking that they’re alone and nobody is going to do anything about it.”
Laraque hopes this incident causes other players to talk openly about other racist and abusive behaviours from coaches and other players in the hockey.