The Bill Peters Case

By Sylvain Godin | OSJ Staff

Unless you have been living under a rock, you've heard by now that Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters was forced to resign this week after racist comments 10 years ago during his AHL stint in Rockford (Chicago’s Affiliate). I will strongly suggest that you listen to episode 168 of the Steve Warne Project to hear more discussion on this. The comments made by Peters were absolutely unacceptable in any era and he had to be held accountable for his actions.

This isn’t just a hockey issue. All sports have unwritten rules: you don't talk about what goes on in the locker room and you simply do not talk about your feelings. It is only recently that staunch defenders and fighters for mental health have spoken out about this and we're now becoming so much more aware of mental issues affecting lives. I would further insist that this is more of a “man” mentality than a sports

mentality. How many times have men been told by their fathers: “Boys don’t cry”? Many men are trained to take whatever is thrown at them and let it bounce off. But we are slowly getting out of this habit; it's actually okay to be, gasp, human! Silence is Golden is a crock of ****. There is absolutely nothing wrong with speaking your mind and speaking about your issues.

Will we see more of this come out? I think we are simply touching the tip of the iceberg with this issue. As with the #MeToo movement, more voices will be heard. I’ll predict that other coaches’ statements in the past will come to light. What I will further argue is that this is a problem for the NHL. They should look into this quickly before it becomes a much bigger problem. I will elaborate a bit more below.

What should we do about this? Many people still need to realize that certain attitudes that were accepted in the past simply will not be tolerated any longer. More players and more people will come forward and call individuals out - and they should! It is never acceptable to rule with an iron fist, or to ridicule someone in a ‘teachable moment’, or to be physically violent with another person. We are starting to see a generation of players that are a lot different than the past. While there will always be a respect for authority, many players today will not have one ounce of remorse in calling anyone out.

It is time for many coaches to change; to get out of their shells and to get out of the “hardass boss” mentality and progress - just like the players and the game they are coaching. They should be fully aware of how society and players are changing (they have courses right now that deal with all of this). You have something this bad in your closet and you know if it comes out, it could mean your job…why not get ahead of it?

Seriously. Go to your GM and say, “Hey. We’re in a world where things are changing. Here’s what I’d like to do because I did this in the past. I'd rather not have it come up and I never spoke about it and have my job axed for it.” Work out a plan to speak about it, explain that you feel like you were in the wrong and that you are aware of the comments being hurtful and that you have taken steps to sensitize yourself about it.

Why not? Is it simply because, as a person, you're too proud to admit you were wrong? Or is it that you actually don’t think there's anything wrong with what you did? I think the latter is a much more poignant statement of who you are as a person compared to someone who can admit he might be wrong and would like to grow from it. I have all the time in the world and the ability to forgive someone that is genuinely giving his all to understand what he did was wrong.

All you have to do is own it. Finally, let’s not put everyone in the same boat. Plenty of coaches know how to demand a good work ethic without badgering someone to get respect. Teaching is an art and some people have it; while some people need to learn the new tools that will reach these players.

And that is my two cents.

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