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Former Wolves player at centre of NHL controversy

Akim Aliu says Calgary Flames coach hurled racist insults in the minor leagues

The NHL and the Calgary Flames are investigating allegations from former Sudbury Wolves forward Akim Aliu, who says Bill Peters used racist language when both were in the minor leagues.

Peters, who is now head coach of the Flames, has not commented on Aliu's accusations. GM Brad Treliving has said Peters will remain head coach at least until the investigation is complete.

Aliu tweeted Monday after stories emerged about former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, who was fired last week. Peters was an assistant coach when Babcock was head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.

“Not very surprising the things we’re hearing about Babcock,” Aliu tweeted. “Apple doesn’t fall far from the Tree, same sort of deal with his protege in YYC. 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.

“First one to admit I rebelled against him. Wouldn’t you? And instead of remedying the situation, he wrote a letter to John McDonough and Stan Bowman to have me sent down to the ECHL. 20-year-old on pace for 20 goals in his first pro year with zero PP/PK time was off to a great start in his pro career.”

A story by TSN reporter Frank Seravelli covers the allegations in more detail.

At the time, Aliu was playing for the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Rockford IceHogs. Seravelli quotes two teammates at the time who confirm what Aliu is saying. 

Treliving said in a statement Monday he wouldn't comment until he has all the facts.

"Through social media, we became aware of this issue during the game this evening,” the statement said. “We take these matters very seriously. We want to complete a full and proper investigation before we provide any further comments on the matter.”

Aliu, 30, has a history of going public with incidents that traditionally have been kept secret inside hockey dressing rooms. As an OHL rookie in 2005, he refused to take part in the hazing rituals rookies traditionally had to endure.

After refusing to strip and cram himself with other rookies into a bathroom on the team bus, he was harassed by teammate Steve Downie. A local TV station happened to catch a fight between the two during practice, when Downie cross-checked Aliu in the face, leading to the two trading blows.

After enduring boos from Windsor fans as the incident became public, Aliu was traded to the Wolves; Downie later demanded a trade, and was sent to Peterborough. Moe Mantha, Windsor's head coach, was suspended and later fired for not knowing what was going on.

“Hazing exists because of the belief that what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room,” Aliu told Sportsnet last year. “Hazing exists simply because of the fear of reporting it. No one should be scared or shamed into silence.” 

Aliu was traded a few times to Sudbury during his OHL career, with his best season coming in 2008-2009, when he scored 44 points in 45 games in a season split between Sudbury and the London Knights.

Off ice issues plagued him, however, and he was suspended by former Wolves coach Mike Foligno in 2007 for “conduct detrimental to the team.”