Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters will not be behind the bench for Wednesday's game against the Buffalo Sabres as the club continues its investigation into allegations of racism and physical abuse.
"Our review into the allegations from last evening continues. This is a very serious matter and we want to be thorough in our review," general manager Brad Treliving said in a statement. "Bill Peters will not be behind the bench for the Flames' game tomorrow night in Buffalo. Associate coach Geoff Ward will handle head coaching duties.
"We will have no further comment until our review is complete."
Former NHL defenseman Akim Aliu tweeted Monday night that Peters directed the N-word toward him several times 10 years ago when the latter coached him with the Rockford IceHogs, the Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate. Two former teammates corroborated Aliu's accusation.
On Tuesday, former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan accused Peters of physically abusing him when the 54-year-old was the bench boss in Carolina. He claims Peters kicked him and punched another player in the head during a game.
It's possible the Flames are prolonging their investigation in order to build a sufficient case to fire Peters without having to pay the remainder of his contract, notes Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann.
"If the Flames fire Peters, they could argue the firing is 'for cause' or 'with cause.' This would mean that Peters is fired for conduct that betrays core provisions of the employment contract," McCann wrote. "That classification of firing usually relieves the employer of the obligation to pay the fired worker going forward, or at least reduces that obligation."
McCann notes there are several factors at play, including the language in Peters' contract and how it addresses alleged misdeeds prior to his employment with the Flames.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has the power to step in and punish Peters if he concludes the coach is guilty under Article IV of the NHL Constitution, McCann added. McCann notes, however, that the language in Article IV - "guilty of conduct detrimental to the League or the game of hockey" - doesn't explicitly cover incidents that took place before an NHL team employed the person in question.
Bettman could also fine Peters up to $1 million and terminate his employment, according to McCann, who adds such punishments are final and typically not appealable.