On Friday evening, Bill Peters resigned as head coach of the Calgary Flames following the revelation that he had directed racial slurs at Nigerian-born player Akim Aliu during his time with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and allegations that he assaulted defenceman Michal Jordan and another unnamed player during his time as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The NHL will be eager to label Peters as one bad apple whose behaviour is not indicative of their values, but history suggests otherwise. Peters is far from the only coach to be reprimanded for using racial slurs.

In 1989, Mike Addesa was relieved of his position as head coach of the NCAA’s RPI Engineers for directing a racial slur at future NHLer Graeme Townshend and another Black player, and in 2003, former NHL goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck was forced to resign as head coach of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for using the n-word to refer to team captain Trevor Daley in a conversation with two of Daley’s white teammates.

In fact, Peters isn’t even the only NHL coach to be reprimanded by the league for using a racial slur. As a player, current St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube was suspended for referring to Florida Panthers forward Peter Worrell as a “monkey” during an on-ice scuffle in 1997.

Peters’ resignation also follows a laundry list of Black NHLers that have been on the receiving end of racist remarks by teammates or fans that includes Wayne Simmonds, PK Subban, Devante Smith-Pelly, Georges Laraque, and Mike Grier, among others.

All the evidence points to abuse and racism in the sport being much more widespread than the hockey community is ready to acknowledge.

While the sport as a whole has gotten better at acknowledging that racism is an ongoing problem, hockey’s pundit class has stopped short of labelling it a systemic issue, couching most of their criticism in the conservative language of personal responsibility. While it may be easy to write Peters’ actions off as being indicative only of his personal character, that doesn’t explain why no one spoke out publicly about the incidents until now, or why Peters’ GM in Carolina extended his contract despite being aware of some of his behaviour.

Aliu stated in a recent interview with TSN that he didn’t speak up earlier because he was afraid doing so would negatively impact his career.

“This isn’t me being bitter. I sat on this a really, really long time. It broke my heart, I think it made my career go downhill before it started. This isn’t to the degree of Kaepernick by any means, but if you play the race card, it’s most likely the end of your career.… I was 20 years old and a first-year pro. I was too scared to speak up,” he said. “I beat myself up every day over it.”

Aliu’s statement reveals an ugly truth about the power dynamics at play within the sport: most players are afraid to come forward about coaches who abuse their power, and management is willing to take advantage of that fact.

All the evidence points to abuse and racism in the sport being much more widespread than the hockey community is ready to acknowledge. It’s worth noting that Aliu was targeted in one of the sport’s most infamous hazing incidents, and if the recent reports from players like Aliu and former NHLer Daniel Carcillo are accurate, the virtues of remaining silent and even participating in the abuse of teammates are hammered into players from a very young age.

Various alumni of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting have confirmed that, as rookies, they were forced to participate in demeaning and often violent hazing rituals, and while those stories are likely among the most extreme examples, they serve as a reasonable starting point for explaining why so many players choose to remain silent about racist or abusive behaviour. For many aspiring pro hockey players, not only would speaking out against the actions of their superiors have a negative impact on their career, it may also cause them to be implicated as participants in the abuse.

The NHL has had to reckon with a number of issues over the past few years, as players have begun to come forward with stories of negative experiences at various levels of professional and minor hockey. The sport has had many long and well-publicized struggles with racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and abuse, and all of these issues have intersected with one another at various points throughout its history.

The controversy surrounding Peters has put those issues in the spotlight recently, but all signs point towards more stories like Aliu’s and Jordan’s waiting to come out — and even more that will never see the light of day.

Jackson McDonald is a writer and media personality from Vancouver Island who has been covering the Vancouver Canucks since 2015. He is currently the managing editor of CanucksArmy and a co-host of Roxy Fever, a podcast that covers hockey from an irreverent left-wing perspective.