Ex-Carolina owner says he’d have fired coach had current NHL Seattle GM Francis told him of player-abuse allegations

By Geoff Baker

The Seattle Times

Former Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos said Wednesday night he’d have fired coach Bill Peters “in a nanosecond” had current NHL Seattle general manager Ron Francis at the time made him aware of physical-abuse allegations being levied by players.

Karmanos owned the team when Francis was GM and a player delegation approached Francis about Peters having kicked defenseman Michal Jordan in the back and punched a second player in the head while on the bench during a game. The incidents likely occurred during the 2015-16 season — the final of two that Jordan played under Peters before the coach that summer was given a two-year contract extension by Francis.

Peters left the Hurricanes in April 2018 right after Francis was fired and became coach of the Calgary Flames.

“I’m pretty upset,” said Karmanos, 76, who sold the team two years ago and claims he learned of the incidents this week through news reports. “And I have my calls in to Ronnie as well. I think he’s the one who’s going to have to tell people what he did when he found out that the coach had done these things.”

Francis, who was named NHL Seattle GM in July, has yet to speak about what happened. NHL Seattle on Wednesday declined all comment on the matter.

“Look, I’m probably as upset as anybody could be,” Karmanos added. “I take pride in our organizations. I’ve always taken pride in playing the game the right way and all of that stuff. So I’m fed up.”

Peters is on leave from coaching the Flames while the team investigates allegations from Monday night that he uttered racial epithets toward a black player a decade ago as a minor-league coach.

In the aftermath of that, Jordan, who is no longer in the NHL, on Tuesday spoke out about the alleged abuse and Hurricanes players going to Francis. On Wednesday, current Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour, a longtime Hurricanes assistant who replaced Peters, told reporters the alleged abuse “for sure happened, the two issues that are in question.”

He added: “The way the players handled it and the support staff handled it (was to) bring it to management right away. Management handled it correctly, and (we) never heard of it again. Never saw anything else after that. It was definitely dealt with in my opinion correctly. That’s not something we talk about. … We’ve definitely moved past that.”

But Brind’Amour, a friend and former teammate of Francis, did not specify what corrective action, if any, was taken.

Karmanos said Francis typically played things close to the vest — even with him as owner — though he’d “absolutely” expected his GM to inform him of something that serious, because Peters “wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with me or most of our organization.”

As founder of the firm Compuware, Karmanos in Detroit helped build one of the nation’s top youth-hockey programs in the 1980s and said he’s “disgusted” a coach at any level would employ such tactics.

“Look, I ran large companies with thousands of people, and I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior from any of our management,” Karmanos said. “And these are all very talented people. You don’t treat employees that way. You can’t be verbally or physically abusive.”

Karmanos said he first heard of Jordan’s allegations when reports surfaced Tuesday.

“I never could figure out why the kid wouldn’t take the contract we had offered him,” Karmanos said of Jordan, who left to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. “He was an excellent seventh defenseman as far as I was concerned. And now I can understand why.”

Karmanos said he was prepared to fire Peters strictly for failing to make the playoffs. But he said Francis wanted to keep him, right until Karmanos sold to current owner Thomas Dundon in December 2017.

“We couldn’t make the playoffs, and as it turns out we had a pretty good nucleus,” Karmanos said. “And then he leaves and it takes Rod (Brind’Amour) half a year to make the playoffs and make the conference final.”

Two hockey sources — one with the Hurricanes at the time — said Wednesday that Francis did approach new owner Dundon about changing Peters for Brind’Amour as coach in early 2018. The request would have been nearly two years after the alleged abuse, but Dundon, who’d just taken over the franchise, declined to make a swap.

A text message sent to a Hurricanes team spokesman Wednesday night requesting comment regarding that claim wasn’t immediately answered.