NHL Seattle general manager Ron Francis did not immediately respond Tuesday to questions about player allegations against his former coach, Bill Peters, stemming from their time together with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan took to Twitter on Tuesday and accused Peters, 54, of multiple physical altercations with players and of kicking him and punching a teammate in the head during a game while they were on the bench.
“He kicked me pretty hard in the back during a game,” Jordan told Frank Seravalli of Canadian sports network TSN later in the day. “Even the trainers and the other guys saw it.”
Seravalli also reported that multiple sources confirmed a second Hurricanes defenseman was punched by Peters.
An ensuing tweet from ABC 11 news anchor Mark Armstrong in North Carolina quoted a Hurricanes source saying “a player leadership group” went to then-GM Francis with concerns about Peters and his treatment of players but didn’t indicate what came of the meeting. Jordan didn’t specify when he was struck but played only two seasons under Peters through 2015-16. Peters remained the coach for two more years.
A request for comment on whether Carolina players had approached him about Peters was made Tuesday afternoon to Francis through NHL Seattle spokesperson Katie Townsend, who said the GM had yet to get back to her. NHL Seattle assistant GM Ricky Olcyzk, who held the same position with the Hurricanes throughout Francis’ tenure there, did not return a phone message seeking comment on the same subject.
A one-time coach of the junior Spokane Chiefs, Peters, currently coaching the Calgary Flames, is under investigation by the NHL and the team after former NHL player Akim Aliu, who is black, on Monday night accused Peters of making racial slurs toward him. The slurs were said to have occurred a decade ago – when Peters was in his first full professional season as coach of the minor pro Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League – and confirmed by two of Aliu’s former teammates in interviews with TSN.
Both sets of allegations surfaced at a time of increased scrutiny of NHL coaches and their treatment of players in the wake of Mike Babcock’s firing last week by the Toronto Maple Leafs. On Monday, news broke that Babcock – already viewed as unpopular in the Leafs’ dressing room – had asked then-Toronto rookie Mitch Marner in 2016-17 to compile a list ranking the work habits of his teammates.
Babcock then shared the list with the rest of the team, supposedly in an effort to teach Marner about accountability.
Marner and Babcock later confirmed the story was accurate, with the coach saying it was a mistake and he’d apologized to the player soon afterward. The Maple Leafs made the playoffs the next three seasons – compiling at least 100 points the final two – with Marner later thanking Babcock in a post-firing text for helping him improve.
But the Marner story surfaced publicly days after Babcock’s dismissal following the team’s slow start and prior failure to get past the opening playoff round. It prompted heavy debate in player circles, the media and online about the tactics used by Babcock, 56, and others and whether they have a place in today’s modern game.
The debate is apparently what sparked Aliu’s and Jordan’s decisions to go public with the more serious accusations of racism and physical contact by Peters years after both allegedly occurred. Peters had apprenticed under Babcock as a Detroit Red Wings assistant coach before Francis gave him his first NHL head-coaching job with the Hurricanes in the 2014-15 season.
Peters and Francis remained together at Carolina until the GM’s ouster in April 2018. Peters resigned immediately and took the job in Calgary, where he was considered a coach of the year possibility last season for guiding the Flames to 50 wins, 107 points and the top record in the Western Conference.
But Calgary is struggling this season, and Peters was not made available to take questions from reporters following a game Monday night after Aliu’s tweets surfaced. Nor was he at practice Tuesday when news of Jordan’s accusations broke.
The timing of the controversies comes just more than a year before NHL Seattle expects to start its search for a coach to be hired by spring 2021. Francis will head up that search and – before this week – it had been expected that Babcock and Peters would be shortlisted for any interview process if available.
Now, as the controversy surrounding them intensifies, it remains to be seen whether either will coach again.