Former Blackhawks prospect and second-round pick Akim Aliu alleged Monday that while playing in Hawks’ organization, Aliu was repeated called a racial slur, then demoted to the ECHL for pushing back.
In a series of tweets, Aliu accused Bill Peters — coach of the Rockford IceHogs from 2008 to 2011, now the Flames coach — of referring to him by the N-word “several times” during the 2009-10 season, Aliu’s first as a professional.
Aliu, a native of Nigeria, said he “rebelled” against Peters’ use of such language.
He accused that Peters then “wrote a letter” to current Hawks president John McDonough and general manager Stan Bowman, asking them to demote Aliu to the ECHL in spite of Aliu’s productivity at the AHL level.
In an interview with TSN on Tuesday, Aliu said the racist incident happened a few weeks before his ECHL demotion and stemmed from Peters’ distaste of his locker room music choices. He said he never contacted the Hawks front office about the issue.
The Blackhawks issued the following statement on the matter Tuesday morning: “The alleged actions by a former coach toward Akim Aliu while with the Rockford IceHogs are something we take seriously. The purported incident had not been reported or brought to our attention prior to yesterday and had no effect on any player personnel decision regarding Mr. Aliu.”
Peters declined to speak to media after the Flames’ loss to the Penguins on Monday. The NHL and the Flames organization are both reportedly “looking into” Aliu’s claims, as of Tuesday morning.
In the 2009-10 season, Aliu played 48 AHL games and 13 ECHL games in the Hawks’ system. He was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers after the season in the Dustin Byfuglien deal, and later made seven NHL appearances for the Flames between 2011 and 2013 (before Peters was hired). Now 30, he played last season for Orlando of the ECHL and has yet to sign with a team for 2019-20.
Aliu was seemingly prompted to reveal the incident because of reports of player mistreatment by recently fired Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, who had hired Peters to join his Red Wings coaching staff in 2011.
Aliu’s tweets are below:
Not very surprising the things we’re hearing about Babcock. 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— Akim Aliu (@Dreamer_Aliu78) November 26, 2019
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— Akim Aliu (@Dreamer_Aliu78) November 26, 2019
Pro career— Akim Aliu (@Dreamer_Aliu78) November 26, 2019