In light of his tweet storm highlighting the verbal and racial abuse suffered at the hands of former Flames coach Bill Peters while both were in the minors, Akim Aliu met with Bill Daly and Gary Bettman this week for an open dialogue on how to start fixing hockey culture’s blind spots.
Aliu spoke briefly to the media on Tuesday afternoon following the meeting, and exuded at least a hint of optimism for the future.
“I think there’s some big change coming…. It’s long overdue, and I’m excited to see it come to fruition,” he said.
It would be foolish to expect progress like this to move too quickly, but the wheels of change appear to be in motion, with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting that the league is currently creating a written Code of Conduct.
“Discussions are underway. Lawyers will tell you the NHL properly handled the Bill Peters investigation, but the slower pace in a frenzied world and the fact he resigned instead of being fired left a sour taste in many mouths. Clear guidelines eliminate grey area, and ease another percolating debate: Where is the line of acceptability?” Friedman wrote.
As Friedman noted, most people in the game likely understand that racial slurs and physical abuse are offences of the zero-tolerance variety, but there are many forms of verbal criticism that fall under a grey area.
A written, clearly-established Conduct Code with specific language detailing what types of offences need to be reported, when, how and to whom, is desperately needed.
According to Friedman, Aliu also raised concerns of a system in which players are afraid to speak out on instances of abuse due to fear of retaliation from various levels of the hockey hierarchy and the negative impact it could have on their careers. Whistleblower protection is much-needed, and the NHL is looking into the role retired minority players could have on the process.
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