By Andy Eide
It turns out that the firing of Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock set off a series events that has the hockey world reeling and in the midst of self-reflection.
In the days following Babcock’s dismissal, a story broke in the Toronto Sun detailing an incident between Babcock and then rookie Mitch Marner. That incident brought into question what behavior between coach and player was appropriate, and what is over the line.
It also inspired other players to come forward and tell their stories.
The most egregious came from Akin Aliu, who recalled an incident from his time playing in the AHL with the Rockford Ice Hogs. Aliu claimed that his coach at the time, Bill Peters, used a racial slur towards him in the dressing room and followed up by demoting him to the ECHL.
Peters, who is in his second season coaching the Calgary Flames, was in the cross hairs and it wasn’t just the Aliu story.
Another of Peters’ former players, Michal Jordan, retold an incident of when he played for the embattled coach with the Carolina Hurricanes. Jordan said that Peters had kicked him on the bench during a game and punched another player in the head.
The Flames began an internal investigation, which grew into a joint inquiry with the league, and Friday announced that Peters had resigned his position and will no longer coach in Calgary.
While Peters is out, the story is will continue to burn.
Hockey’s culture is under the microscope and perhaps some much needed introspection. The old school, hard-nosed coaching style has some defenders but clearly some coaches have crossed a line from just being hard, to out right abusive.
More stories are sure to come out and hopefully, it will lead to positive changes inside the game at all levels.
Here are this week’s Weekly One-Timers:
WOT 1 – The Peters’ Carolina story splashed up locally on NHL Seattle’s doorstep. The incident involving physical abuse of players occurred while Seattle’s Ron Francis was the general manager of the Hurricanes. Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina’s current head coach, was an assistant on that club and corroborated the story. There is still some question as to what Francis’ role was in correcting it and if he acted properly. Brind’Amour, in his comments, praised the way that the Hurricanes management handled the players’ complaints at the time, saying that he was proud of how it was handled and “…we never heard of it again. Never saw anything else after that. It was definitely dealt with, in my opinion, correctly.” Neither NHL Seattle nor Francis have made any public comments on the situation as of Friday morning
“It for sure happened, the two issues that are in question.”
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 27, 2019
WOT2 – On the ice, coming into the season all eyes were on rookies Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko — the top two picks in June’s NHL Draft. Perhaps overlooked was the guy selected after those two. Chicago took Kirby Dach with the third pick in the draft and he is off to a great start. Dach was injured in the preseason and missed the start of the season. He has played 18 games with Chicago and has scored five times while recording 10 points. By comparison, Hughes has played 24 games and has 11 points, while Kakko has 10 points in 21 games.
WOT3 – It hasn’t been a great start for the Minnesota Wild, but they have shown some life of late. Coming into the weekend the Wild have not lost in regulation over their last seven games (4-0-3). Their most recent win came in New Jersey as they edged the Devils 3-2. Rookie goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen made 34 saves in his NHL debut to pick up a win. He became just the second goalie in Wild history to win in his league debut, the only other being Matt Hackett in 2011. The Wild still have a way to go if they wish to get back into the playoff picture however. Currently Minnesota is a point above the Los Angeles Kings at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
WOT4 – If you like goals, you probably enjoyed the third period in Pittsburgh on Wednesday evening. The Penguins fell behind the Vancouver Canucks 6-2 early in the final frame and it looked like the visitors were skating out of the Steel City with a pair of points. Down four, the Penguins came to life and Evgeni Malkin capped off an unlikely comeback by scoring his second goal of the night to give Pittsburgh a 7-6 win. Malkin ended the night with five points (2g,3a) and the two teams combined for eight goals in the third. It was the second time this season that two teams scored that many goals in a period.
WOT5 – Lost in the disaster of that third period for Vancouver was a three-assist night for Canucks rookie Quinn Hughes. It was the third time this season that Hughes has recorded three assists in a game, and he is one game away from tying the NHL record for three-assist nights by a rookie defenseman. Ray Bourque holds the mark with four during his rookie year in 1979-1980 with the Boston Bruins. Colorado defenseman Cale Makar is getting all the headlines when it comes to rookie blue liners, and for good cause, but don’t sleep on Hughes. Makar leads all rookies with 25 points, but Hughes is right behind him with 21.
WOT6 – Hughes also had another assist this week that didn’t get recorded on the scoresheet. In overtime during the Canucks win at Washington, the rookie gave teammate J.T. Miller a push to help him break up a T. J. Oshie breakaway.
Quinn Hughes literally gave J.T. Miller the shot in the butt he needed to breakup a T.J. Oshie breakaway chance… pic.twitter.com/8RWJsLUfby
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) November 23, 2019