MOSCOW — The hockey world was shocked last week by news that disgraced NHL coach Bill Peters was returning to professional hockey as coach for the Russian KHL team Avtomobilist. Peters was forced to resign as coach of the Calgary Flames last fall after it was discovered he previously used racial slurs and struck players. Given Peters’ history of discrimination against black players, questions remained as to what would happen with the Avtomobilist’s only black player and its team captain Nigel Dawes whose contract was set to expire at the end of the 2020 season. Those questions have now been answered.
Sources with knowledge of the situation tell us exclusively that Avtomobilist decided not to renew Dawes’ contract. The decision was purportedly made before the announcement that Peters would be hired. It is not known if the decision not to renew Dawes’ contract was related to the decision to hire Peters, although one source calls the entire situation “sketchy.”
Dawes was not only captain of Avtomobilist but also led the team in total points and had the fifth highest point total in the entire KHL. Dawes appeared in each of the last five KHL all-star games, was a top scorer in the KHL for the past five seasons, and was the top goal scorer in the league in 2018. Prior to playing in the KHL, Dawes played in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens, Atlanta Thrashers, Calgary Flames, Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers.
During a video press conference set up by Avtomobilist last week to announce his hiring, Peters claimed he learned from his transgressions in the past. Peters told the Russian media, “I think as time goes on we all grow and improve and become better versions of ourselves, and I’m no different than that. You learn from all the experiences that you’re in, and you become better.” Whether Peters has learned from the past is still to be seen, although the decision not to renew Dawes’ contract certainly gives pause for concern.