Bill Peters sounded at ease late Friday afternoon, his decision reached and the announcement made by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Peters resigned as the Canes’ head coach, opting out of the final year of his contract. It was not a career move made hurriedly, he said, nor one made under duress.
“It’s something I had to think about, for sure,” Peters said in an interview. “Game 82 hits and you’re used to going a million miles an hour and you’re going, going, going and all of a sudden you have no games, no practices.
“It takes a while to decompress, and look back and try and give it a little bit of time and look back with clear vision. I think we were able to do that.”
Peters was hired in June 2014 by Ron Francis, then the Canes’ general manager, and later signed to a contract extension by Francis in 2016 that ran through the 2018-19 season. That was approved by Peter Karmanos Jr., then the team’s majority owner.
But since January, much has changed. Tom Dundon, a Dallas billionaire, took over as majority owner. Francis no longer is GM, being reassigned by Dundon. And the new owner was not pleased that his new team failed to reach the playoffs for the ninth straight year — the fourth under Peters.
Dundon, in his end-of-season press conference, said a major shakeup could be in the making and the speculation about Peters’ future soon began.
But Peters, asked Friday what factored into his decision to leave, said, “It kept coming back to the fact that a new GM deserves the opportunity to hire his own coach. And especially when you combine it with a new owner and a new GM, I think they need to chart their own path.”
Peters called it an amicable parting between coach and owner.
“It was really good,” Peters said. “Tom and I met four or five times. It was excellent.
“He’s a guy who has been successful in business. Owning and managing a sport team is a business. No reason why he can’t be successful again.”
Peters believes the Hurricanes could soon be back in the Stanley Cup playoffs and still feels the sting of missing out this season. He pointed to the depth of talent on the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes’ American Hockey League team that began play Friday in the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs.
“I know what they have below (in Charlotte),” he said. “I think there are some real good players who can go on a long run and win a Calder Cup. It’s a much deeper organization now than four years ago.”
As for Peters, he joked that he’s “currently unemployed.” Had things been different, he would have been in Charlotte on Friday with the Canes contingent, watching the Checkers’ playoff opener, analyzing the players.
Instead, he was free to attend his son’s lacrosse game Friday afternoon, then Ayden’s roller-hockey game, taking at least a few hours away from hockey. More of that decompression.
But not for long. Peters, who will coach Canada in the upcoming IIHF World Championship in Denmark, said he leaves Wednesday for Riga, Latvia, where Team Canada will play an exhibition game.
There’s also the matter of the Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars and New York Rangers currently having coaching openings. Peters may not stay unemployed for long.
Much NHL speculation has Peters, a native of Alberta, linked to the Flames job. Peters would not confirm or deny.
“I haven’t kept up with that a whole bunch, being busy,” he said. “I’d like to work, I’d like to coach. I hope something is in place soon.”
Peters said the Hurricanes would find a good coach and said assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour would be a “very strong candidate, if that’s the direction they want to go.”
Peters said the plan for now was to keep his house in Raleigh. His daughter, Aleze, attends East Carolina and will stay at ECU, he said.
“Really a great area, with great people in the community,” he said. “I worked with a ton of great people. I’m thankful for the effort from the players in our four years. I"m thankful for the fans' support. They're very passionate fans.
“It’s all positive memories for me, it really is."