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Rick Zamperin: Is the National Hockey League ready for a ‘big change’?

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

This is the new era of the National Hockey League that I was talking about.

A week after news broke that former NHL player Akim Aliu was the target of racial abuse from former head coach Bill Peters 10 years ago, Aliu now says “there’s some big change coming.”

The one-time Calgary Flames forward met Tuesday with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly to discuss cultural issues in hockey and Aliu said that he is “excited” to see change coming, adding that “it’s long overdue.”

READ MORE: Former NHL player Akim Aliu meets with league execs, says ‘big change’ expected

In a tweet last week, Aliu revealed that Peters used a racial slur “several times” when they were both together in Rockford of the American Hockey League in 2009-10.

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Fellow teammates were quick to back up Aliu’s claim and others have followed suit with allegations of physical abuse at Peters’ hands.

Peters ultimately apologized for what he called “regrettable” actions and was subsequently forced to resign as Calgary’s head coach.

We have also learned that former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock asked Mitch Marner during his rookie season to rank his teammates from hardest-working to laziest, then showed those players at the bottom of the list what Marner thought of their work ethic.

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

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Former Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen has accused Babcock of being a “terrible” person” who said “coarse, nasty and shocking” things.

Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Marc Crawford is now being investigated after ex-NHLer Sean Avery alleged that he was kicked by Crawford for taking a penalty while playing for the alps Angeles Kings in 2006-07.

Click to play video 'Former NHL player Dan Carcillo on changing the culture of hockey' Former NHL player Dan Carcillo on changing the culture of hockey
Former NHL player Dan Carcillo on changing the culture of hockey – Nov 28, 2019

I predicted that the news of what happened to Aliu would trigger a surge of players sharing their personal stories of abuse, and I was right that all of them are NHL alumni.

You can be sure that this issue will be a dominating topic at next week’s NHL Board of Governors meeting, but as for what “big change” is coming, that remains to be seen.