Former NHL player Akim Aliu met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and other league executives on Tuesday in Toronto just days after Aliu’s allegations of racist language led to the resignation of Flames coach Bill Peters.
"It was a tough week, but we had some great discussion," Aliu said in a statement after the meeting. "They couldn't have been kinder or more receptive to the message that we're trying to bring."
Aliu, who played under Peters with the Blackhawks’ Rockford IceHogs of the AHL during the 2008–09 and 2009–10 seasons, tweeted on Nov. 25 that Peters “dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music.” Aliu said he “rebelled against him,” and Peters responded by asking Chicago Blackhawks executives John McDonough and Stan Bowman to send Aliu to a lower minor league level.
The incident was later corroborated by two teammates, who said that Peters didn’t apologize for his comments at time.
Following Aliu's allegations, former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordán accused Peters of physical abuse. In a series of tweets, Jordán said Peters kicked him and punched an unnamed player in the head during a game. Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour, who was previously an assistant coach under Peters, confirmed Jordán's allegations.
That same night, Peters sent a letter to Treliving to address the allegations of making racist comments and to apologize to anyone affected by his words. He did not name Aliu in the letter. Aliu released a statement last Thursday calling Peters's apology "misleading, insincere."
Peters resigned days after the initial allegations surfaced.
Sources close to Aliu told Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann that the 30-year-old native of Nigeria does not regard the controversy as limited to remarks by one coach from a decade ago.
Instead, as McCann notes, Aliu maintains that the NHL has long failed to sufficiently address broader issues of race and culture—particularly with respect to retaliation against black players who speak up.
According to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, Aliu’s meeting is expected to be the first step in a larger conversation that will occur at the board of governors meeting next week.
"We are pleased to have met with Akim Aliu today and had a productive and candid conversation," Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "Today's discussion is part of a broader, thorough review and process that the league is undertaking. We share a mutual objective: ensuring that hockey is an open and inclusive sport at all levels."
"I think there's some big change coming," Aliu added. "It's long overdue, and I'm excited to see it come to fruition."