Bill Peters named Lethbridge Hurricanes head coach, 4 years after resigning as Flames’ bench boss over anti-Black racism

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge Hurricanes hire Bill Peters as new head coach'
Lethbridge Hurricanes hire Bill Peters as new head coach
A high-profile hiring by the Lethbridge Hurricanes is now the talk of hockey circles across the country. Bill Peters joins the team as its new head coach. The former NHL bench boss resigned from the Calgary Flames four years ago after admitting to a previous act of racism towards a former player. Erik Bay has more on the hiring. – Aug 30, 2023

Bill Peters is being given a second chance by the Lethbridge Hurricanes, but not by the former player who was the target of his racism.

Peters was named Lethbridge’s new head coach on Wednesday, returning him to the Western Hockey League and organized hockey for the first time in nearly four years.

Peters resigned as the head coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames in November 2019 after it became public that he had committed an act of anti-Black racism involving former player Akim Aliu.

Peters’ opening remarks after his introduction as Hurricanes head coach was an apology to Aliu.

“Over the last several years, I have worked to understand my previous anti-Black racist thoughts and actions,” Peters said in a statement. “I have learned much through this reformational journey and feel ready to return to coaching. I am in an influential position to positively impact community leaders and contribute to a more inclusive generation in hockey.”

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A statement from the WHL says that Peters has completed an anti-racism training and coaching certification program with guidance from Shades of Humanity Consulting, a national diversity, equity and inclusion agency. Commissioner Ron Robison said in a statement he’s satisfied Peters has taken the necessary steps required to return to coaching in the WHL.

“After a thorough review, speaking with representatives from Shades of Humanity, and receiving a commitment from Bill to continue on his path of anti-racism, self-growth and redemption, the WHL is satisfied Bill is ready to return to coaching in the WHL,” Robison said. “The journey towards individual and systemic equity learning should be viewed as an ongoing process.

“Bill has demonstrated that through this process and the WHL remains committed to systemic change through continued education.”

Click to play video: 'Disgraced Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters ‘leading candidate’ for Alberta junior hockey gig'
Disgraced Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters ‘leading candidate’ for Alberta junior hockey gig

The incident occurred when Peters was head coach of the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs during the 2009-10 season. Aliu, who led the IceHogs in scoring, was the target of Peters’ attack.

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Aliu issued a statement on social media on Wednesday, before the Hurricanes held a news conference introducing Peters as their new head coach. He said a current head coach in the NHL reached out to him on behalf of Peters to try to broker an apology.

Aliu posted his response to the unnamed coach in full.

“(Peters) called me the ‘N’ word and instead of apologizing at the time he doubled down and sent me to the East Coast League — I went through a tremendously dark time throughout this whole process,” said Aliu. “He would berate and embarrass me endlessly in front of the whole team on a daily basis.

“Truth be told if I never said anything he would still be coaching in the NHL. I am all about second chances but only if they are sincere.”

Aliu also alleged that Peters wrote a letter at the time to management at the Chicago Blackhawks — Rockford’s parent club — that further alienated the young player from the organization. He noted that five members of that front office went on to be general managers for other teams, essentially ruining his reputation in the NHL.

Click to play video: 'Bill Peters resigns as head coach of Calgary Flames, team looks to move on after tumultuous week'
Bill Peters resigns as head coach of Calgary Flames, team looks to move on after tumultuous week

According to Shades of Humanity Consulting director and founder Joanne Kinya Baker, Peters worked with a team of racialized consultants to gain deeper insights on the impacts of his words and actions.

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“Peters displayed the willingness to learn, remorse and above all, a deeper sense of understanding race-related and equity issues through this process. He is committed to doing better, continuing on the educational journey, as well challenging bias-related attitudes as he now has the skills to do so,” a statement from Baker reads in part.

“We believe that he is in good standing to lead a team, based on this information that we have witnessed at Shades of Humanity.”

Peters was also accused by a former NHL player of kicking and punching players with the Carolina Hurricanes during his tenure there.

Lethbridge general manager Peter Anholt says he has no concerns for players or staff as Peters enters his first head coaching role in North America since his NHL resignation.

“I feel really comfortable of the personal growth Bill’s been through and how safe our environment is going to be for them,” Anholt said.

As for moving forward in Lethbridge, Peters promises to be active promoting inclusivity.

“If we are successful on the ice and fail to produce in the community, I’ll be very disappointed,” Peters said.

Click to play video: 'Calgary Flames GM receives apology statement from coach Bill Peters'
Calgary Flames GM receives apology statement from coach Bill Peters

Peters, 58, agreed to a multi-year contract with the Hurricanes. The Three Hills, Alta., product has an extensive coaching resume, including serving parts of six seasons as a head coach with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary from 2014 until 2019. He posted a 199-175-64 regular season record between the two teams. He also served as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings from 2011 to 2014.

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Before his time in the NHL, Peters spent three seasons as Rockford’s head coach after a three-year stint with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. In his time with the Chiefs, he led the club to a WHL and Memorial Cup championship in 2008.

Peters has coached and represented Canada at various levels, including the under-17 and under-18 teams, capturing a gold medal at the 2009 Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament. Peters also served as an assistant coach once and head coach twice for the men’s world championships, capturing two gold medals (2015, 2016) and a silver medal (2017).

He was also an assistant coach for Canada’s World Cup of Hockey championship team in 2016.

With files from Erik Bay, Global News

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