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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Words as Weapons

I’d just finished talking to Georges Laraque on the phone this morning about accusations by Akim Aliu that racial slurs were directed at him by coach Bill Peters a decade ago when the story broke the Calgary Flames had fired Peters over the incident.

Minutes later, word came from Flames’ GM Brad Treliving the report was not true. The team was still “investigating.” While that may be accurate, if Aliu’s allegations are substantiated, it’s got to be a matter of when, not if Peters is fired – that’s something that could happen before I’m even finished writing this.

It was stunning to read Aliu’s account of what he claims was said to him at a morning skate during 2009-10 season while he was playing for Peters with the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. From Frank Seravalli’s story today, this is Aliu’s account:

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“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.” Aliu’s account of what was said that day was corroborated by two former teammates.

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CAN’T SAY IT

Sep 16, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters on his bench against the Vancouver Canucks during the warmup period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

After Aliu’s initial revelation about the event on Twitter, but before Seravalli’s follow-up story, my first reaction was, “This can’t be right, can it? Did Peters actually say this? Why would he say this?” I’m a middle-aged white guy, so I can’t walk in Aliu’s shoes or truly understand how it feels to be talked to like that, but Laraque can. He’s walked that mile.

“When I read that, it was like, ‘Come on, man, that’s impossible.’ To me, it didn’t make sense,” Laraque said of Aliu’s first mention of the incident on social media. “I couldn’t believe it. But then, when I read that he (Peters) actually said that in the dressing room, there’s many players who could testify, that could verify this.

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“It’s sickening to me because you know the Sean Avery thing that happened to me in L.A. You were there. Those things that happen with players sometimes, but from a coach? That, to me, if it is true, you’ve got to fire him (Peters) and he can never be in professional sports ever again.”

Laraque accused Avery of directing a racial slur at him on the ice at Staples Center years ago. It was an incident that saw Laraque later confront Avery in the parking lot — one which thankfully didn’t get out of control when several members of the Oilers got off the team bus as Laraque and Avery argued. Laraque also endured racial slurs while playing minor hockey in the greater Montreal area.

“When stuff like this happens, if it’s true, you can’t keep a guy like that,” Laraque said. “There’s First Nations in Calgary cheering for them. There are black people in Calgary in the stands cheering for the Flames. They’ve got to take a stand on this . . . if it’s true, they have no choice.”

Previously by Robin Brownlee