A former NHL player is speaking out once again about the abuse he has experienced during his hockey career. As a sixteen-year-old rookie in the OHL, Akim Aliu refused to submit to ritual hazing and spoke against this abuse which is normalized within hockey culture. Now, nearly fourteen years later, he is speaking up about structure-enabled abuse in the hockey leagues.
During his time with the American Hockey League, Aliu experienced abuse under his coach Bill Peters. Pre-practice, Peters went on a rant about Aliu’s music selection for the team during which he used racial slurs. After refusing to take abuse from Peters in another incident several weeks later, Aliu was removed from the team and sent to a lower level league.
After his conduct was recently made known by Aliu, Peters issued an apology to his current manager, Brad Treliving, and the Calgary Flames. Notably, he did not mention or directly address Aliu in his statement while apologizing “to anyone negatively affected by my words”. Aliu responded by saying that he felt the statement was “misleading, insincere, and concerning” and to announce that he would be meeting with the NHL to discuss the matter. Peters resigned from his position as head coach of the Calgary Flames on November 29.
Abuse in the sports world is not uncommon. Many athletes are psychologically, physically, and sexually abused by coaches who exploit their position of power. Abuse is not exposed in the majority of cases because athletes are afraid of the consequences of doing so. Aliu’s career has suffered as a result of not silently accepting the abuse handed out to him, and he has been labelled as “a difficult player”. Aliu says that he took so long to speak up about Peters because he was afraid of doing further damage to his career. Now, after hearing Aliu speak about his experience, another player, Michal Jordán has stepped forward to report the physical abuse he and another teammate experienced under Peters. Hopefully, with Aliu’s example, more players will have the courage to speak out and break the pattern of abuse and silence.