Akim Aliu, who spoke out about racism, signs with Czech team

Akim Aliu, Ryan O'Byrne

FILE – In this Feb. 28, 2013, file photo, Calgary Flames right wing Akim Aliu loses control of the puck as the blade of his stick breaks off, while Colorado Avalanche’s Ryan O’Byrne defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Denver. Former NHL forward Aliu expects “big change” in hockey after a meeting with top league executives Tuesday. Aliu met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly in Toronto to discuss his allegation that former Flames coach Bill Peters used a racial slur several times during the 2009-10 season while the two were with the Chicago Blackhawks’ top minor league affiliate in Rockford, Ill. The Flames investigated Aliu’s claim, and Peters resigned last Friday. Peters apologized to the Flames and general manager Brad Treliving for using “offensive language” in Rockford. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

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Akim Aliu, the player who helped prompt a new discussion about racism and coaching behavior in hockey, is heading back to the ice.

Aliu signed Tuesday in the Czech Extraliga for the remainder of the season. He joins HC Litvínov with 14 games left in the season, giving him a chance to display his game to any NHL teams interested in signing him.

The 30-year-old said he thought about this move for a long time before deciding to play overseas.

“It was a tough decision,” Aliu said in a text message to The Associated Press. “We are doing good work here on shining light on the issues in the game. My hesitation was on not losing this momentum.”

he Czech league season runs until March, and HC Litvínov is in the playoff hunt.

A second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007, Aliu played in seven NHL games with the Calgary Flames. The right winger/defenseman has since bounced around to various leagues and spent last season with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.

The Nigerian-born Aliu, who was raised in Ukraine and Canada, said last fall that veteran coach Bill Peters directed racial slurs toward him while with the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs. Aliu said Peters “dropped the N bomb several times” because he didn’t like the player’s choice of music.

Peters resigned as Calgary coach after comments from Aliu and another player who said Peters kicked him and punched another player while with the Carolina Hurricanes. Aliu has since met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and other league officials about racism in hockey.

“My message on top of the racial (slurs) and abuse of coaches to players is not giving up,” Aliu said. “And I want to be an example that no matter what happens, you continue to strive for your dreams.”

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AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed.

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