Former NHLer Akim Aliu signs with pro team in Czech Republic
30-year-old journeyman's revelation of racism is sparking change in hockey
Former NHL player Akim Aliu, whose description of past alleged racist behaviour by Bill Peters led to the former NHL coach resigning from the Calgary Flames, has signed a contract for the rest of the 2019-20 season with HC Litvinov of the Czech Extraliga.
The Czech team confirmed the move on its website Tuesday.
Aliu, who is of Nigerian and Ukrainian descent, had posted on Twitter in November that Peters used a racial slur towards him several times during the 2009-10 season while the two were with the Chicago Blackhawks' top minor league affiliate in Rockford, Ill.
Peters resigned on Nov. 29 after an investigation by the team. He apologized to the Flames and general manager Brad Treliving for using "offensive language" in Rockford two days before his resignation.
The 30-year-old said he thought about this move for a long time before deciding to play overseas.
"It was a tough decision," Aliu said in a text message to The Associated Press. "We are doing good work here on shining light on the issues in the game. My hesitation was on not losing this momentum."
The Czech league season runs until March, and HC Litvinov is in the playoff hunt.
Aliu was drafted in the second round, 56th overall, by Chicago in the 2007 draft.
He last played with the ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears in 2018-19.
Aliu's message has drawn pledges of change in hockey, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league would institute a zero-tolerance policy for racism and abuse.
"My message on top of the racial [slurs] and abuse of coaches to players is not giving up," Aliu said. "And I want to be an example that no matter what happens, you continue to strive for your dreams."
AHLer suspended for racial slur
On Tuesday, the American Hockey League announced a five-game suspension for defenceman Brandon Manning for using a racial slur in a game on Jan. 20.
Manning, who plays for Edmonton Oilers affiliate Bakersfield Condors, admitted the slur in a statement released Tuesday by the club.
"Last night I made comments to an opposing player that were stupid and offensive," Manning said in the statement. "After the game I spoke with the opposing player in person, which I'm grateful for. He allowed me the apologize and I took full responsibility for what I said. To say I've learned from the situation is an understatement and I promise to be better."
With files from Associated Press