Fran­cis has to an­swer for en­abling Peters

Former Hur­ri­canes GM gave tacit ap­proval to coach by re-sign­ing abu­sive bully

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS - LUKE DECOCK THE NEWS & OB­SERVER (RALEIGH, N.C.)

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?

ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Bill Peters, pic­tured, has now been ex­posed as a phys­i­cally abu­sive bully, writes Luke DeCock.

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Ron Fran­cis, pic­tured, ad­mit­ted play­ers and staff told him of phys­i­cal in­ci­dents in­volv­ing two play­ers and Bill Peters.

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