Friday, 29 November 2019

Changing One Team's Culture

Brad Treliving's Friday wasn't a very good one. He held a press conference where he was emotional, he spoke about some of the awful things he's heard over the past week regarding Bill Peters' actions with other teams, and he's had to endure the court of public opinion calling not only for Peters' job but for Treliving's job as well as he was the man who hired Peters in Calgary. Treliving, I'm happy to announce, is staying in Calgary after his press conference today, but Bill Peters will not after he submitted his resignation, effective immediately, from the Calgary Flames, essentially ending this drama for the Alberta NHL franchise.

The press conference today was less about Bill Peters and more about what Treliving was doing behind the scenes with respect to the investigation into the allegations made against Peters. It seems that Treliving covered all his bases in doing the investigation into Peters, stating that he had spoken to Akim Aliu twice, Michal Jordan, teammates of theirs in Rockford and Carolina respectively, management and coaches with the IceHogs, and with the IceHogs' NHL affiliate in the Chicago Blackhawks. Treliving, however, wouldn't confirm if he spoke to former Hurricanes GM Ron Francis other than to say he spoke to the team.

The emotional portion of the press conference, though, can't be ignored as the things Treliving heard from the people he spoke to clearly had an effect on him.

"The subject matter we've been dealing with over the last few days is difficult, hard and it does not in any way reflect the core values of the Calgary Flames," he said as his eyes welled up with tears. "It's been a difficult time, but we are going to move forward."

As he explained that Peters had submitted his resignation, it became fairly apparent that the only course of action the Flames had to resolve this issue was to fire Peters. While Peters may have beat the Flames to the punch, the fact that Treliving was left with just one option is a pretty clear indication that Peters' words and actions with Rockford and Carolina are real. That's a serious problem, but Treliving did stress that what happened elsewhere with Peters was not seen during his time with the Flames.

"I want to reiterate these incidents didn't take place here," Treliving stated firmly. "We checked to see if there were any situations in our team where people were put into situations they were not comfortable with. There were none."

As a general manager, you kind of expect Treliving to look out for his team first, but it's a relief to see that Treliving actually spoke to his players and staff to see if there were any kind of abuses they suffered under Peters. If we're talking about changing hockey culture, this openness in discussing one's treatment without fear of shame or retribution of any kind in any situation is vitally important to making the changes we so desperately need to change the culture in and around hockey. Treliving deserves some credit in giving his staff and players a chance to speak up if they felt abused in any way.

It's clear, though, that the people howling for Peters to be fired and questioning Treliving's effectiveness as a general manager as the investigation continued began to wear on Treliving based on his comments.

"I've been criticized a lot over the last three to four days," Treliving began, "that things have not moved quickly, maybe not moved in a timely fashion. If I have not met anyone's time agenda I apologize, but it was more important that we get all the information. This was something that needed to be handed correctly, it needed to be handled in a timely fashion but I was not going to trade carelessness for thoroughness."

This, too, is an important part of the process as Aliu's allegations were treated seriously by starting the investigation, but one shouldn't be able to destroy the career of another without some actual proof. If Aliu's claims were verified by this investigation, the consequences of Peters' actions a decade ago would be upheld by the Flames. If there was no merit to the allegations, however, the investigation would also show that, and Peters' reputation wouldn't be sullied. Unfortunately, as we now know, Peters did wrong as per Aliu, and the investigation verified the allegations against Peters - game, set, match as the Flames had the proof they needed to make the changes they see fit for their club.

As of today, Bill Peters is no longer the head coach of the Calgary Flames. That decision was made by Peters, but it seems like an unavoidable conclusion to this story regardless of his resignation.

Let's be clear here: there's no place in hockey or society for what Bill Peters did. People will make mistakes and those mistakes have consequences, but the language he used and the actions he took should have a zero-tolerance policy. We, as fans, are asking for change in and around the game because hockey should be for everyone, but it seems that those changes are moving at glacier-speed in some cases. Change can be hard for those who done things a certain way over a period of time, but I want to give a stick-tap here to Brad Treliving because it seems like he's serious about changing the culture of hockey within his team.

"As we talk to our people there always has to be a feeling you can come forward if you've got an issue or a situation you don’t feel comfortable with," he said at the end of the press conference. "We talk to our players all the time – we try to give them outlets that they can come and communicate if they have issues they are uncomfortable with.

"I think the avenues we've got and some of the mechanisms we have in place for people to come forward if they need to are in place, but you always have to continue to look at them."

No one is saying that what Brad Treliving is doing in Calgary should be put on a pedestal as a shining beacon of how a good organization is run. However, what we should do is point to the Flames and credit them for putting a process in place that amounts to the most important part of change - the first step.

There are miles to go for hockey culture to change, but it starts with a first step.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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