Former NHLer Akim Aliu with the Calgary Flames.
Photo credit: Derek Leung/Getty Images

Former NHLer returning to professional hockey after four years

Published March 20, 2024 at 5:21 PM

After four years away from the ice, a former National Hockey League defenceman and founding member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance is returning to the professional ranks.

On Wednesday, it was revealed that the San Jose Barracuda, American Hockey League affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, have signed former NHLer Akim Aliu to a professional tryout contract for the remainder of the 2023-24 season.

"Hearing Akim Aliu is returning to the ice.

#sjsharks GM Mike Grier confirmed today he is signing Aliu to an AHL tryout deal for remainder of the season with @sjbarracuda. Aliu last played pro in 2020 in Czechia and has battled through years of surgeries and rehab, but his dream never wavered." Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli said.

Sharks general manager Mike Grier said that the organization wanted to give Aliu an opportunity to see what he's able to do at the professional level.

"We wanted to give him an opportunity to see what he can do," Grier said.

The 34-year-old was drafted in the second round in 2007 by the Chicago Blackhawks, but would never play in a game at the NHL level with them. During his time in the Blackhawks organization, Aliu was allegedly subject to racist comments by his head coach, Bill Peters. The allegations came to light in 2019, while Peters was head coach of the Calgary Flames, and just days later, he resigned from his position.

Aliu finally got his break with the Calgary Flames, although he'd only appear in seven NHL games across parts of two seasons, putting up three points (two goals, one assist), 26 penalty minutes and was a plus-one.

After battling through multiple knee injuries during his career, Aliu stepped away from professional hockey in 2020 after appearing in six games with HC Litvinov in the Czech Extraliga. Although he never officially announced his retirement, it was unclear, until now, if he was ever going to return to the ice.

It's going to be interesting to see how Aliu does in his first professional game since 2020 and if he's able to provide an impact for the San Jose Barracuda, who are currently tied for last in the American Hockey League standings.

March 20   |   217 answers
Former NHLer returning to professional hockey after four years

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