So this was a pretty WILD story to drop last night. Maybe it’s just me, but I remember Akim Aliu and his story pretty vividly. I had high hopes for that draft class. Patrick Kane followed by local kid Billy Sweat and Akim Aliu. I want to say that Aliu didn’t start playing hockey until he was like 14 years old because he was from Nigeria and Ukraine. Despite the late start he was a big time prospect and a point per game guy in the OHL.
That was the time when tracking prospects was still hard, but I feel like we still did it because the hype train was leaving the station with Toews and Kane. Aliu, like he said, got off to a great start and poof…out of nowhere he was demoted to the ECHL. I remember thinking that was weird, but would NEVER have guessed that racism was involved. Dustin Byfuglien was already on the team in 2009-10 season when this supposedly happened. Then before you know Aliu was traded after the first Cup along with everyone else to Atlanta and that was that.
The Blackhawks have come out with a statement about Aliu’s allegations
A pretty strong denial from the Hawks about their knowledge or involvement here. Something to watch closely here because if Aliu is telling the truth I would assume that he talked to his agent about this entire situation. I would also assume there would be a paper trail of communication between the agent and the organization. You’d think that the organization wouldn’t want to demote a kid who they spent a high draft pick on in 2007 and who was playing well as a rookie without cause. That is not a decision the Rockford head coach can make on his own. The Blackhawks brass would have had conversations with the coach and the agent about this whole thing. Something I hope real journalists actually investigate what happened here. I don’t believe the Blackhawks organization to be racist. They’ve had numerous players of color in Chicago over the years. Dustin Byfuglien, Johnny Oduya, Ray Emery, Anthony Duclair, etc. You’d think that if there were overt racism in the hockey operations department that we would’ve found out about it by now. Hopefully, this was either a) an unfounded claim or b) an isolated incident because I can’t imagine how awful it must have felt for Aliu to have his career seemingly derailed by a coach who didn’t like his music or the color of his skin. Absolutely abhorent if true.