Akim Aliu's Story Has Been Corroborated and Bill Peters Looks Primed for the Unemployment Line, as the Surface Has Merely Been Scratched on Half-Witted Hockey Culture
TSN- Speaking publicly for the first time since he made the allegation on Twitter, the Nigerian-born Aliu said Peters made the remarks in the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs dressing room before a morning skate during the 2009-10 season while the 20-year-old Aliu controlled the team’s music.
“He walked in before a morning pre-game skate and said ‘Hey Akim, I’m sick of you playing that n----- s---,’ ” Aliu told TSN, with Peters, who was then the Ice Hogs head coach, referring to Aliu’s selection of hip-hop music. “He said ‘I’m sick of hearing this n-----s f------ other n-----s in the ass stuff.’
“He then walked out like nothing ever happened. You could hear a pin drop in the room, everything went dead silent. I just sat down in my stall, didn’t say a word.”
Two of Aliu’s Rockford teammates who were in the room at the time of the alleged incident, Simon Pepin and Peter MacArthur, independently corroborated Aliu’s account to TSN on Tuesday.
"I think everyone should be held accountable for their actions or words spoken," Pepin said.
Aliu said Rockford team captain Jake Dowell later confronted Peters about the incident in the coach’s office. Dowell declined to comment, but said he would cooperate in any investigation conducted by the NHL or the Flames.
When Peters then called Aliu into his office to talk about it, Aliu said Peters did not apologize. Instead, Peters again expressed his displeasure in Aliu’s choice of music for the dressing room, with Aliu saying Peters said: “You know, I’m just sick of this n----- s---. It’s every day. From now on, we need to play different music.”
When asked why he waited nearly 10 years to step forward, Aliu pointed to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a reason to stay quiet.
“This isn’t me being bitter. I sat on this a really, really long time. It broke my heart, I think it made my career go downhill before it started,” Aliu said. “
This isn’t to the degree of Kaepernick by any means, but if you play the race card, it’s most likely the end of your career.”
Aliu said he did not confront Peters at the time of the incident, nor in the private meeting that followed in Peters’ office.
“What am I going to say? I was 20 years old and a first-year pro. I was too scared to speak up,” Aliu said. “I beat myself up every day over it.”
Aliu said he believes that incident with Peters “ruined my career before it started.” Aliu already began his career with the public reputation of being a difficult player, stemming from his refusal to participate in a hazing ritual with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires that would have forced him and other rookies to stand naked in a bus washroom.
“Look at the numbers. I was on pace for 20 goals in my first pro season and I wasn’t getting any power-play or penalty-kill time. Zero special teams,” Aliu said. “I feel like this ruined my career before it started. I don’t think that can be disputed. Then you get sent down to the ECHL, then traded to another organization and it’s an uphill climb from there.”
“There isn’t much that you can do or say to me that I can’t accept an apology for,” Aliu said. “He wasn’t man enough to apologize to me and move on.”
So instead, Aliu admitted that he “turned sour against” Peters in the days and weeks that followed, ultimately leading to his demotion to the ECHL.
Aliu said two or three weeks after the incident, Peters snapped at him during a drill in practice and Aliu responded by saying: “Don’t f------ talk to me” to Peters. Within two hours of practice ending, Aliu says he was demoted to the ECHL.
“It’s tough to sit here while he just keeps climbing the ranks. After that incident, I got zero opportunity,” Aliu said. “I’ve made peace with it. I hope he’s honest and admits what happened.”
So, to recap...
A supremely-talented Nigerian-born prospect, who - as a teenager - was labeled an irredeemable rebel for having the gall to refuse to slip off his skivvies and get packed dick-to-ass into the bathroom of a bus, that held multiple future NHL coaches, for the entertainment of older teammates in the midst of a heterosexual identity crisis, was chillin' in his stall and minding his own business to the backdrop of some beats.
Then, his curmudgeon of a coach, who apparently takes his social cues from David Duke, decided to stroll on through and casually - pardon the pun - drop the mic with a bunch of targeted n-bombs that left his locker room in stunned silence. After being reprimanded on the matter by the player he elected captain, said coach proceeded to call said prospect into his office to double and triple down on his racist rhetoric, as opposed to apologizing. When going the extra mile to remind that prospect of his skin color's suppressed and stunted standing in the whitest of painfully white sports was oh-so-shockingly met with a grudge, that prospect had his then promising career path detoured out of spite.
The coach, on the other hand, went on to quickly rise through the ranks, reinforcing his resume by taking notes alongside another recently relieved coach whose team full of future Hall of Famers even thought he was a pompous prick. The student has become the teacher, as Bill Peters is coaching his second NHL team, despite his first one hating his fucking guts and making the playoffs exactly zero times in four underperforming years before undeniably improving as an exponentially more unified "bunch of jerks" immediately upon his departure.
That, of course, could change as soon as today, since it sure as shit appears that he's finally facing his first (and hopefully fatal) repercussion after a decade of being a divisive dictator, a discriminatory dickhead, and an abusive asshole...
However, if you don't think the timeline above speaks to how cancerous hockey culture can be then I regret to inform you that you've already contracted it, as stating the blatantly obvious does not make you any less of a hockey fan. As a matter of fact, I'd even take it a step farther. Defending the breeding ground of intolerance and toxicity that is the cesspool of insecure entitlement in which old, blubbering blowhards tread water while failing to evolve with the sport that keeps gifting them golden opportunities proves you are actively against the growth of a game that you view in a light bright enough to blind you to its ugly truths.
I'm not saying that every long-time hockey coach is, for lack of a more accurate term, a piece of shit that deserves to get run over and left for dead by the high horse they rode in on, nor am I saying that every player is suffering from the sports' equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome. Since the time Akim Aliu went head on with his head coach's hate speech, I'd imagine quite a few progressive steps have been taken in that regard.
That being said, if two insanely high-profile figures governing the highest level of hockey in a crazed media fishbowl of a country could have their fascist ways of counterproductively abusing both their pro players and their power fly under the radar for this long then it stands to reason that similar bullshit is still an epidemic in less supervised leagues.
This sad tale of Akim Aliu and a career at least partially undercut by the insatiable ego of someone that represents almost everything that is hatable about hockey is undoubtedly on the more asinine end of the spectrum. However, if you think this is the last skeleton in the closet of a community that, in part, was still worshipping every nonsensically nationalistic noise Don Cherry bellowed while glorifying brawn at the expense of brain, in a language that could only be translated by the nearest racist grandpa, then you might be in for a #MeToo level surprise.
Hopefully the Babcock backlash, as well as this story and its ramifications...::refreshes to see if Bill Peters has been fired (into the sun) yet::...
...serve as the distasteful saline solution that hockey has to choke down before a culturally constipated sport has its colon cleansed of decades worth of deeply embedded and inevitably nasty crap. Those that either have or plan to devote their lives to playing it (or were bullied out of doing so) will be better off for it, even if the over-inflated reputations of some of its most "revered" taskmasters won't be able to say the same.
Times have changed. Generations have changed. Membership to the Good Ol' Boys Club clearly hasn't. We're finding out there's a price to be paid that's long overdue, and - if the last week is any indication - the interest could prove pretty goddamn eye-opening.