Rick Zamperin: Welcome to a new era in the National Hockey League

Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters is under investigation by the team following an accusation that he directed racial slurs toward a Nigerian-born hockey player a decade ago in the minor leagues, then arranged for the player’s demotion when he complained. Liam Richards/The Canadian Press via AP, File

As the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to field questions about an odd request from their former head coach and the Calgary Flames investigate disturbing allegations against their current bench boss, a new era has begun in the National Hockey League.

News broke Monday when Toronto Sun reporter Terry Koshan reported that Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner was asked during his rookie season in 2016-17 by then-head coach Mike Babcock to rank the players on the team from the hardest-working guys to the least hardest working.

Click to play video: '‘It wasn’t an easy conversation to have’: Toronto Maple Leafs president on firing coach Mike Babcock' ‘It wasn’t an easy conversation to have’: Toronto Maple Leafs president on firing coach Mike Babcock
‘It wasn’t an easy conversation to have’: Toronto Maple Leafs president on firing coach Mike Babcock – Nov 20, 2019

Babcock then showed the players who were at the bottom of the list. He has since admitted to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that it turned out to be a bad idea and apologized at the time.

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Marner has brushed off the interaction when asked by reporters, saying his teammates didn’t hold a grudge against him.

Either way, it was a shady and bush-league move by a veteran NHL head coach.

Hours later, the Flames launched an investigation into their head coach.

READ MORE: NHL, Flames investigate allegations against coach

It’s after former player Akim Aliu claimed on social media that he was the target of racist comments when he played for Bill Peters on the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs from 2008 to 2010.

Aliu tweeted that one of Babcock’s protege’s “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.”

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If the allegations against Peters are true, they are shocking and revolting. There’s no place for that in hockey, or anywhere else for that matter.

I wouldn’t be surprised if these two outrageous incidents are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some of the odious events that occur in the inner sanctum of a pro hockey dressing room.

What I truly don’t expect to happen is to see or hear a player on a current NHL roster dredge up old incidents that any of us would consider flagrantly offside.

Marner and Aliu’s stories may empower others to come forward with similarly offensive situations, and that’s great, but I don’t think we’re going to see a rush of players expose their truth.

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The average career of an NHL player is relatively short compared to what most of us would call a ‘normal job’ and I doubt that anyone will want to break the ice and potentially get blackballed from the league.

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