Francis has to answer for enabling Peters
Former Hurricanes GM gave tacit approval to coach by re-signing abusive bully
RALEIGH, N.C. — Nobody ever really liked Bill Peters during his four seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, which in itself is neither surprising nor notable.
Coaches have successfully motivated teams to championships through fear instead of love in all sports. Hockey just happens to have a particularly strong vein of it, bubbling up from the wild, wild west of junior hockey, the best and worst of hockey alike. A coach doesn’t have to be popular to be a winner.
But Peters was more than merely a mean-spirited martinet during his four seasons as coach of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. He has now been exposed, in this moment of new awakening in the hockey world, as a physically abusive bully.
And while the regime in charge of the Hurricanes has changed since Peters departed in 2018, there still has to be a reckoning for those who enabled and even encouraged him.
Add another page to Ron Francis’s dubious legacy as the Hurricanes’ general manager. Francis — now the general manager of the as-yet-unnamed Seattle expansion team — never made a playerfor-player trade in his four seasons in charge, had a mixed draft record and whiffed on two No. 1 goalies.
And none of that even rises to the level of his kid-gloves handling of Peters, empowering an abusive coach now exposed as an embarrassing disgrace. Peters resigned under pressure from the Calgary Flames on Friday after Akim Aliu, one of his former minor league players, accused him of using a racial slur — and the incidents with the Canes came to light.
After Peters’ physical abuse of Michal Jordan and another player was brought to Francis, by a group of coaches and players, Francis forced Peters to apologize to the team.
Whether he told owner Peter Karmanos is a matter of some uncertainty. Karmanos said via text message Saturday said he was unavailable to comment. But he told the Seattle Times on Wednesday he was never told and would have fired Peters “in a nanosecond.”
Meanwhile, Francis issued a statement on NHL letterhead Saturday saying that he “briefed ownership” — but Francis’s ensuing actions are not uncertain.
Jordan’s last season in Carolina was 2015-16. In the summer of ’16, Francis proceeded to give Peters a contract extension, not only retaining a coach who
Francis knew had neither the trust nor the respect of his players, but offering the tacit approval of his methods.
The same dynamic was in action when Francis refused to overrule Peters before the 2017-18 season, when Peters refused to name the newly returned Justin Williams captain as expected and instead named Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk as co-captains.
This was classic Peters bullying. Rather than empower a strong, veteran voice that could (and would) have challenged him — a player Francis specifically signed as a free agent to address the leadership deficit — Peters put two players in impossible positions they did not want. Thus weakening the player leaders and strengthening the coach’s own hold over the dressing room.
A year later, with Peters gone, Staal and Faulk were both visibly grateful to have been relieved of that burden and Williams captained the Hurricanes to the end of their playoff drought and all the way to the conference finals.
Peters’ motives were obvious. Petty and sinister, but obvious. There’s no mystery there. His team would have only one voice: His. Even to its own detriment.
The mystery is why Francis didn’t stop him. Why did Francis go along with Peters’ sabotage of the dressing room, neutralizing the impact of Francis’ own marquee free agent in the process?
Bill Peters, pictured, has now been exposed as a physically abusive bully, writes Luke DeCock.
Ron Francis, pictured, admitted players and staff told him of physical incidents involving two players and Bill Peters.