Exactly one year ago, former Calgary Flames winger Akim Aliu had just finished a workout at the gym and glanced at his phone.
Days earlier, a report revealed that during the 2016-17 season, then-Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock asked rookie winger Mitch Marner to rank his teammates based on their work ethic. Babcock then shared Marner’s list with some of the team’s veterans, much to the surprise of Marner.
The revelations led to hockey players at various levels of the sport sharing stories of abuse at the hands of coaches and teammates.
With the Babcock-Marner incident on his mind, Aliu pressed ‘send’ on a series of tweets that would lead to an NHL coach resigning, a referendum on the sport’s culture, the formation of new NHL policies and committees aimed at tackling hockey’s challenges regarding racism and inclusivity, and the creation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance.
“Not very surprising the things we’re hearing about Babcock,” read the first tweet Nov. 25, 2019. “Apple doesn’t fall far from the Tree, same sort of deal with his protege in YYC. Dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music.”
Aliu’s tweets referred to an incident during the 2009-10 season with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League where he alleged that his head coach Bill Peters repeatedly directed racist slurs towards him.