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The 1997 Archives: Sheldon Comes Forward

1997....the healing process for Sheldon began in this year. It's hard to believe it was now five years ago. It began in early January when he came forward to the press with his story of survival. He and Jana both started what was then known as the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation. Sheldon planned to build a ranch in Canada to assist kids with the trauma of sexual abuse.

The biggest guns in the NHL, such as the Philadelphia Flyers' Eric Lindros expressed their gratitude towards the courageous young man they shared the ice with. Others, such as then-Calgary Flame Theoren Fleury (now with the New York Rangers) didn't share that same gratitude, apparently.

In the summer of 1997, joy from finally being able to move on became short-lived when the ATV he was riding overturned and broke his leg in nine places. Two days later, he was cut from the Bruins' roster. It was now time for Sheldon to heal and rethink his course of action. It made me realize that everything happens for a reason, and just because he was out of hockey indefinately didn't mean he'd disappear. He now had a voice that couldn't be silenced.

The list of archived articles from 1997 is by no means complete. If you have any that are not displayed here, please send me a copy of the article, along with the site address you got it from and please email me.....thanks for your help!!!

Below are the archives for 1997.

Page 1

Former Wing Goes Public With Sex-Abuse Story

"He was Always a Loner...." Demers says of Kennedy

Officials Hoping to Add More Prison Time to Convicted Coach's Sentence

Talk is Cheap on Sexual Misconduct

Victim's Life A Living Hell: Kennedy Struggles to rebuild life Shattered by "Father Figure"

Sex Abuse Victim Breaks Silence: Bruins Forward Molested by Junior Coach

Bruins Player Details Sex Abuse By Coach: After Being Victimized for 12 Years, Kennedy Helps Send Junior Coach to Jail

A Tear in Canada's Fabric: Nation Rocked by News of Sex Abuse by Junior Hockey Coach

Kennedy's Story is A Profile in Courage

Rattler Players not Surprised by Hockey Turmoil

Betrayed Trust

Kennedy Takes Steps to Overcome Sexual Abuse

Courage and Sheldon Kennedy

Kennedy Retraces Past

Coach Paid To Watch Sex

Sport and Society

Sexual Abuse Scandal Rocks Youth Hockey

Hockey Pays the Price For Gay Tolerance

Hockey Pays The Price For Gay Tolerance (Response)

Darkening the Hockey Dream

Reliving a Nightmare

Machismo Silences Victims of Abuse

Abuse Revelation Gives Kennedy Freedom At Last

Former Wing Kennedy Goes Public With Sex-Abuse Story
(c)Associated Press

TORONTO -- A judge offered former Red Wing Sheldon Kennedy a chance to keep his plight out of the spotlight. Kennedy felt otherwise, finally speaking out about 12 years as a sex-abuse victim of a Canadian junior-league hockey coach.

"This is the hardest bloody thing I have ever had to work and deal with in my life," Kennedy said in an interview published Monday by the Toronto Star, Calgary Herald and USA Today.

"I just feel there are doors opening for me to take this thing and try to help and make this a huge issue."

Kennedy's former coach, Graham James, was sentenced last week in Calgary to 31/2 years in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual abuse in a case that rocked many in hockey-loving Canada. A court order prohibited publication of the two victims' names, but Kennedy chose to go public about the abuse, which was committed over a 12-year period starting in 1982.

"It was very lonely, and I was very scared to tell people how I felt because they would not believe me," Kennedy said. "I want people to know they can tell somebody because there are people out there who understand where you're coming from."

James, 43, was among the leading junior coaches in Canada, helping develop several current NHL players and leading the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League to the Memorial Cup title in 1989. Kennedy plays forward for the Boston Bruins.

James' conviction was front-page news across Canada and provoked demands for tighter screening of coaches, whose influence over young players is often powerful.

"It's a black day for the whole hockey world," said Ben Weibe, chairman of the Swift Current team. "Hockey is going to have to take a close look at itself."

Kennedy, 27, initiated the criminal investigation in September, saying he was sexually assaulted more than 300 times, beginning when he was 14. James resigned as coach of the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen after the investigation became public.

"The biggest crime that Graham James committed was he stole Sheldon's youth," said Kennedy's wife, Jana. "He stole from Sheldon his trust and his confidence in adults, and that will take years to overcome."

Kennedy, from Elkhorn, Manitoba, first met James at a hockey school near Winnipeg. James, then coach of the Winnipeg Warriors, traded for Kennedy's rights, and called Kennedy's parents to ask that he be sent to his house to discuss his playing future.

"That seemed like the chance of a lifetime; my family couldn't get me on the bus fast enough," said Kennedy, who said he was assaulted while staying at James' home.

Kennedy said he tried to resist by pretending to be asleep. When the light was turned on, Kennedy said James was holding a shotgun and talking about duck hunting. Kennedy said he was then assaulted again.

"You do not have a clue what to do," Kennedy said. "You tell your mom and she makes you come home. You tell your friends and they will just portray you as a gay guy. It is just a very scary thing."

During the next several years, James arranged to have Kennedy play for teams he was associated with. Twice a week, James would summon him and sexually abuse him, Kennedy said.

"Every Tuesday and Thursday, for six years, I had to go to his house. That's a long time," Kennedy said. "I'll never forgive him.

"He kept me with him all the time, on all the trips. It was like we were married. I told him time after time that it was not right. He was just a very smart, manipulative man. It was the position of power he was in."

Kennedy scored 58 goals in the 1988-89 season, helping Swift Current to the Memorial Cup.

Kennedy, who had a career-high 19 goals for the Red Wings in 1992-93 and spent the last two seasons with Calgary, was given time off by the Bruins to attend James' trial.

Red Wings senior vice-president Jimmy Devellano, who was the general manager for Kennedy's first season in Detroit (1989-90), said he found it difficult to win Kennedy's trust.

"Sheldon would say that he never trusted adults," Devellano said. "I never felt I could completely win him over. Now it makes sense. When he was here, it didn't all make sense."

Cynthia Lambert contributed.

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"He was always a loner..."- Demers Says of Kennedy
By Kevin Allen / USA Today

Boston Bruins winger Sheldon Kennedy has a plan to help other abused teen-agers walk through the door he opened by going public with his story of being sexually abused by his junior hockey coach.

Kennedy would like to raise money to buy a ranch where young abuse victims could find help. He also would like to see the junior leagues adopt a counseling program that affords players the opportunity to seek help without going through the team.

"It has to be totally outside of the hockey team," he says, "so a player can feel totally comfortable that it won't get back to the team."

Kennedy, expected to return to the Bruins' lineup after he recovers from a neck injury, has received an outpouring of praise for his decision to come forward with the testimony that helped police convict former Canadian junior coach Graham James of sexual assault. Another former Canadian junior player, who prefers to remain anonymous, also told the police he had been abused.

Jacques Demers, who coached Kennedy during his troubled seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, commended him. Demers says now he has a better understanding of Kennedy's early years in the NHL when his drinking landed him in trouble with the law.

Kennedy signed with Detroit after being abused continuously in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. James started abusing him when he was 14.

"He was always a loner, but he was looking for a friend," Demers recalls. "That's why he ended up with Bob Probert ... but you know even when he was in trouble, you knew he was a good kid. He was never disrespectful, never a bum. Every time he had done something, he was so remorseful."

Kennedy says Probert, who turned around his own life from drug and alcohol abuse, has been supportive.

Kennedy's story shocked the hockey world. "If I had a son in that position, I would want to kill the guy," Demers says.

Kennedy's Troy, Michigan-based agent, Tom Laidlaw, says James' conviction is the beginning of Kennedy's work, not the end.

Laidlaw says he doesn't want Kennedy to have tell his story day after day because he's finally excited about playing hockey. But the two have talked about how to spread Kennedy's message that there is a way out for abused teens. They are serious about the ranch idea.

"He really wants to do something," Laidlaw says. "And we plan to follow through."

The hot line concept is similar to the health benefit in place for NHL players, who can call and ask for counseling without involving the team.

Because junior-age players have a high profile in Canada, Kennedy says, it's forgotten that they aren't adults.

"People say at 14 or 15 years old, you should know what you are doing," he says. "(But) people need guidance in that age."

Kennedy says even 18-year-olds entering the NHL need more guidance than what is usually available.

"I was 19 entering the NHL, and when you're that young, making that kind of money, you can get into trouble," Kennedy says. "Me coming from a town of 17,000 living in downtown Detroit, making $150,000, I was (buying) car after car after car. I didn't even know how to open up a banking account."

Copyright 1997, The Detroit News

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Officials Hope to Add More Prison Time To Convicted Coach's Sentence
By USA Today
Graham James, convicted of sexually assaulting Sheldon Kennedy and another junior hockey player, could be eligible for day parole after serving nine months of his 3 1/2-year sentence.

But Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials are still trying to investigate their suspicions that other former James' players -- maybe another NHL player -- were assaulted when they played for James in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

If other players come forward, they plan to prosecute James on other charges, with the hope of adding to his prison time.

"Sheldon and I have been assured that the RCMP aren't through with Graham James," said Kennedy's agent, Tom Laidlaw.

Kennedy has said he's content with the verdict. "We talk about this being a life sentence for him, because we know he won't be able to coach and do this ever again," Laidlaw said.

Copyright 1997, The Detroit News

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Talk is Cheap on Sexual Misconduct
Los Angeles Times
Tuesday January 7, 1997 Home Edition Sports

Sheldon Kennedy was sexually assaulted by his junior hockey coach more than 350 times over a 10-year period--sometimes with a shotgun pointed at him--and only now are Canadian junior hockey officials discussing how to institute background checks on the men entrusted with their childrens' lives.

Kennedy, a winger with the Boston Bruins, and another player who has maintained anonymity filed suit last summer against Graham James, long a successful coach in the junior ranks. James last week pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault between 1984 and 1994 and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. He can be out on day parole in September.

"He took the youth right out of me," Kennedy said in an emotional ESPN interview. "My years from 14 until now have kind of been a fog. I'll never forgive him." Many youth hockey coaches are parents who begin as volunteers and advance through the system without undergoing the type of screening an employer would run on a job seeker. Canadian hockey officials are discussing how to screen coaches--such programs already exist in USA Hockey--but it's too late for Kennedy. And for how many other players? Canadian law enforcement officials are still investigating to determine whether there are other victims.

Coaches can be powerful authority figures in the Canadian junior ranks, where kids often leave home at 14 or 15 and live with local families as they take the first steps toward an NHL career.

"At 15 in the hockey world, it's a tough thing to do, to say a man has touched you or made sexual moves on you," Kennedy said. "You don't want to wreck your dreams."

He was 14 or 15 and James was 31 or 32 when the assaults began. Every Tuesday and Thursday for six years, Kennedy went to James' house.

"He considered me his wife," Kennedy said of James, who coached the Swift Current (Saskatchewan) Broncos to the 1989 Memorial Cup junior championship and has coached NHL stars Joe Sakic and Theo Fleury. "There was absolutely nowhere for me to turn. I had no one, nobody."

Kennedy, who drank to hide his turmoil, kept his secret until he was with the Calgary Flames, his second NHL team. He signed with the Bruins last summer but got a personal leave to go to Calgary for events leading up to the trial. He has played 14 games this season.

Sadly, the James case is not a first in Canadian minor hockey. In 1996, the Quebec Ice Hockey Federation barred Martin Dubuc from coaching after he was convicted of sexual assault on two players, but he later returned to coaching. Former Drummondville (Quebec) coach Jean Begin, convicted of seven counts of sexual assault on boys in 1991, committed suicide after serving a six-month prison sentence. Stephane Valois of Sorel, Quebec, was charged with three counts of sexual assault on minors shortly after his team won the national midget championship in 1990. He was sentenced to five months in jail.

Canadians have reacted with shock and outrage, and popular commentator Don Cherry blasted James in an obscenity-laced tirade on national TV.

Talk is fine, but it's time to act. Coaches must be carefully scrutinized, and kids must be assured there's no shame in reporting improper acts by a coach or authority figure. Innocence is too precious a gift to be stolen.

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Victim's life living hell: Kennedy struggles to rebuild life shattered by "father figure"
Tuesday, January 7, 1997
(c) 1997 The Calgary Herald
By Mike Board
Southam Newspapers
CALGARY - Hockey player Sheldon Kennedy describes his life as a lonely, living hell.

He was sexually abused as a teen by Graham James, his coach and "father figure" who controlled his hockey career and his daily life from the time he was 14 to 19. Kennedy found he was unable to make friends. Unable to trust and unable to love.

Unable to feel "normal" unless he was drinking.

Unable to turn a junior career into a solid National Hockey League career.

Suicidal at times because inner turmoil haunted him.

He gained a reputation for trouble with alcohol and, allegedly, drugs.

"He has his own baggage. That's the thing that has kept him from greatness," James said of Kennedy in January 1995.

"It affected me big time. You feel very awkward in public. You feel people are looking at you. I put up a shield. I didn't let anybody in. It's a very lonely way to feel. You never feel normal. You know something is wrong but you don't know why it is like that," Kennedy, a former Calgary Flame now with the Boston Bruins, said in an exclusive interview with select reporters on Saturday. He asked that his identity be revealed.

In a gripping one-hour interview in a Calgary hotel room this weekend, Kennedy, 27, told his story.

Part of the healing process took place last Thursday as he sat in a Calgary courtroom, listening, watching and choking back tears as James was sentenced to 31/2 years in prison for sexually assaulting Kennedy and another ex-Bronco from 1984 to 1994.

"I believe that Graham truly fell in love with me but he knew exactly what he was doing and he should have realized that it wasn't accepted, because I had mentioned many times that I hated it," Kennedy said Saturday. "There was no willingness on my part, believe me.

"The best way people will be able to understand, you know you go in for an operation and they take out this big tumor and replace it with another one and you've got to rebuild it right from the start. That's the way I feel. It's like they opened up your skin and took all your insides out, left your heart there, and replaced them and you've gotta find all your new feelings.

"If there's one thing I could invent in this world it would be a pill that you could give these sexual assaulters that they wouldn't be able to get it up and that they would have to live life all mixed up, as mixed up mentally as they make you. That's what I would love to be able to do because I think that's a bigger punishment (than jail)," he said.

Kennedy sees a psychiatrist once a week. As he rebuilds his life, he wants his story told so that others who have been, or are being sexually abused, will be less afraid to come forward.

"I know how I felt in there and I was very lonely and I was very scared to tell people how I felt because they wouldn't believe me," he told reporters.

"I always felt I wasn't normal and I (want to) get things out to let these people know it is all right to tell somebody because there are people out there that understand where you are coming from."

Kennedy came forward on Sept. 3, 1996 by taking his complaints of sexual abuse by James to Calgary city police.

The decision was in part spurred by the fact that he saw James regularly at the Canadian Airlines Saddledome where he was coach of the Calgary Hitmen, and in part because Kennedy and his wife had just had a child.

"I had a hard time going to the rink and seeing Graham with kids," said the victim.

The court heard Kennedy, now 27, was the victim of 300 assaults by James who also pleaded guilty to 50 assaults on another player he coached. That player is not being named to protect his identity and privacy. Kennedy, who admitted his home life in the small farming community of Elkhorn, Man., was far from perfect, said James represented a father figure for him when he was 14.

"You know, I couldn't wait to get away from home and to meet Graham - he was that thing a 14-year-old was looking for, a father figure, you know."

The first sexual encounter between James and Kennedy was in Winnipeg at James' apartment in 1984, court heard. From that point on, Kennedy said James, who had seen him at a hockey school in Winnipeg, controlled his hockey career and his life.

"He had this whole thing planned. He knew what he was doing. It's the way they work. He always keeps you put down so you'd always have to look to him as the only person who could help you," Kennedy added.

James pleaded guilty to the offences and admitted in a statement read to the court that; "I offer no excuses. I blame nobody but myself. I was selfish."

But he added: "I am truly sorry that this happened."

When Kennedy was 15 he told James a lie - that he had been abused by a teacher - in the hopes that James would stop the molestation.

"He didn't even blink an eye," said Kennedy. "He kept me with him all the time. It was like we were married. It was unbelievable."

Kennedy further complicated his life.

He said he sometimes turned to alcohol to chase away his problem. On Jan. 1, 1995 he was charged with possession of marijuana. The charges were later dropped. In the summer of 1993 he plea-bargained on a drunk-driving charge. Prior to training camp he was jailed for two weeks for violating probation orders stemming from the charge.

The healing process has begun, Kennedy said Saturday.

"It's a weird thing. A lot of times when I drank it made me feel normal at the time. But now, dealing with these problems I don't need a substance to bring my feelings out. I'm learning to talk about it. I truly do not believe that I am an alcoholic or a drug addict. I'm only a quarter of the way there but I'm getting better. I can feel things now," Kennedy said.

"I'm starting to like myself again, I didn't care about myself for a long time."

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Sex Abuse Victim Breaks Silence: Bruins Forward Molested By Junior Coach
January 7, 1997
Frank Dell'apa

Sheldon Kennedy stretched out in the Bruins' locker room after practice Monday and said he believes that he can finally proceed with his life. Kennedy, who has been shuttling from Boston to Alberta in recent weeks, said he was relieved after a Calgary provincial court sentenced his former junior hockey coach, Graham James, to 3 1/2 years in prison for sexual assault.

"For once, my story is out and people know what's going on with Sheldon Kennedy," he said. "They know that I'm not just some messed-up kid. I feel better about myself. It can only get better for me. It can't get worse."

Kennedy, 27, had been a victim of sexual abuse for six years, since his rights were acquired by James in 1984. James, the most successful junior coach in Canada in recent years, guided the Swift Current (Saskatchewan) Broncos to the 1989 Memorial Cup and coached several current NHL players, including Theoren Fleury and Joe Sakic.

James, 43, was coaching the Winnipeg Warriors when he traded for Kennedy's rights in 1984. He invited Kenendy, from Elkhorn, Manitoba, to his Winnipeg home and made sexual advances, threatening Kennedy with a shotgun. Kennedy said he did not reveal the situation because of fear.

Kennedy said he depended on James to promote his career. However, after an uneven start to his professional career and an alcohol problem, Kennedy decided to press charges.

On September 5, 1996, James resigned as coach of the Calgary Hitmen. The next day, police confirmed that he was being investigated. On Nov. 22, charges were filed agaist James by Kennedy and another former Swift Current player. "Everyone says it was courage," said Kennedy, who is married and has a 1-year-old daughter. "But for me it was a need to do something for myself and for my family. For me it was a need, for others, it's courage. I was put in this situation for a reason. I want to let people know that a lot of this stuff goes on, not only in the sports world but in the world. The victims don't say anything. Nobody involved says anything. It's a quiet thing. It's very touchy. I wanted to make it known so that people who are in these situations can feel more at ease, feel better about themselves." Kennedy said that he was sexually assaulted more than 300 times. Kennedy told investigators that after a bus crash killed four Swift Current players in 1986, James told him, 'If I lost you I wouldn't be able to go on.' "It was like I was his wife or his lover," Kennedy told police.

Kennedy believed his career and life were controlled by James, described by the Calgary Herald as "a bright, articulate, nonsmoking, nondrinking bachelor who was revered in the hockey-mad town of Swift Current."

Kennedy sat with family and friends in a crowded courtroom Friday and glared at James as details of the abuse were read during a 2 1/2-hour hearing, according to the Calgary Herald.

"I offer no excuses," James said from the prisoner's box after the sentencing. "I blame nobody but myself. I preached selflessness but I was selfish. I am truly sorry that this happened."

"Despite what has happened, at some point I would like to be friends with him again," James said in an interview with ESPN Sunday night. "As rediculous and impossible as it sounds, that is how I feel."

Monday, Kennedy said, "It's not over for him. He believes he didn't do anything wrong. And there are other victims. It is going to take time before they are ready to come forward. I am feeling better and better but I have no idea how I am going to feel. I have never played without this on my mind. It's nice to be able to concentrate on hockey."

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Bruins Player Details Sex Abuse by Coach; After Being Victimized for 12 Years, Kennedy Helps Send Junior Coach to Jail
By (Unknown Author)
Jan 7, 1997

A judge offered Sheldon Kennedy a chance to keep his plight out of the spotlight. The Boston Bruins forward decided otherwise, speaking out about his 12 years as a sex-abuse victim of a junior league coach.
"This is the hardest bloody thing I have ever had to work and deal with in my life," Kennedy said in an interview published today by the Toronto Star, the Calgary Herald and USA Today.
"I just feel there are doors opening for me to take this thing and try to help and make this a huge issue."
Kennedy's former coach, Graham James, was sentenced last week in Calgary to 3 1/2 years in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual abuse in a case that shocked hockey-loving Canadians. A court order prohibited publication of the two victims' names, but Kennedy chose to go public about the abuse that began in 1984, when he was 14.
"It was very lonely, and I was very scared to tell people how I felt because they would not believe me," he said. "I want people to know they can tell somebody because there are people out there who understand where you're coming from."
James, 43, was among the leading junior coaches in Canada, helping develop several current NHL players and leading one of his clubs, the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, to a national junior title in 1989.
His conviction was front-page news across Canada and provoked demands for tighter screening of coaches, whose influence over young players often is powerful.
"It's a black day for the whole hockey world," said Ben Weibe, chairman of the Swift Current team. "Hockey is going to have to take a close look at itself."
Kennedy, now 27, initiated the criminal investigation in September, saying he was sexually assaulted more than 300 times starting when he was 14. James resigned as coach of the Calgary Hitmen after the investigation became public.
"The biggest crime that Graham James committed was, he stole Sheldon's youth." said Kennedy's wife, Jana. "He stole from Sheldon his trust and his confidence in adults, and that will take years to overcome."
Kennedy, from Elkhorn, Manitoba, first met James at a hockey school near Winnipeg. James, then coach of the Winnipeg Warriors, traded for Kennedy's rights, then called the player's parents to ask that Kennedy be sent to his house to discuss his future.
"That seemed like the chance of a lifetime. My family couldn't get me on the bus fast enough," recalled Kennedy, who said he was assaulted while staying at James's home.
Kennedy said he tried to resist by pretending to be asleep. When the light was turned on, Kennedy said, James was holding a shotgun and talking about duck hunting. Kennedy said he was then assaulted again.
"You do not have a clue what to do," Kennedy said. "You tell your mom and she makes you come home. You tell your friends and they will just portray you as a gay guy. It is just a very scary thing."
Over the next several years, James arranged to have the youngster play for teams with which the coach was associated. Twice a week, James would summon the youth and sexually abuse him, Kennedy said.
"Every Tuesday and Thursday, for six years, I had to go to his house. That's a long time," Kennedy said of a portion of the 12-year period. "I'll never forgive him."
"He kept me with him all the time, on all the trips. It was like we were married," Kennedy said. "I told him time after time that it was not right. He was just a very smart, manipulative man. It was the position of power he was in."
Kennedy scored 58 goals in 1988-89, his final season in juniors, helping Swift Current capture the Memorial Cup, which goes to North America's top junior club.
Kennedy, who had a career-high 19 goals for the Detroit Red Wings in 1992-93 and spent the past two seasons with the Calgary Flames, was given leave by the Bruins so he could attend James's trial. He missed three games and is scheduled to miss Tuesday night's game in Philadelphia with a strained neck.
Boston Coach Steve Kasper said Kennedy looked solid in practice, but that questions remained about whether he was in shape for full playing time against the Flyers.
Kennedy admits that drinking has undermined his career, but said he is not an alcoholic.
"I'm no angel," Kennedy said. "If you are portrayed as a wild kid since you were 14, you begin to act that way. He knew what he was doing. It is the way {sexual predators} work."
Kennedy said his marriage to Jana in April 1995 and the birth of their daughter, Ryan, last year changed his life.
"She was the first person I trusted enough to tell," Kennedy said of his wife. "She was the first real friend I think I had."
He would like one more meeting with James.
"I would be able to tell in his eyes whether he knows what he did was wrong," Kennedy said. "I can't see now that he understands that."
James says he'd still like to be friends with Kennedy.
"As ridiculous and impossible as that sounds, that's how I feel," James told ESPN as he started his jail term. "I always hope that some day something can be done to bring about a reconciliation."

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A Tear in Canada's Fabric; Nation Rocked by News of Sex Abuse by Junior Hockey Coach
By Howard Schneider and Rachel Alexander
Jan 8, 1997

In the mythology of Canada, hockey is a contest of elemental machismo, played across a thousand frozen ponds in a frigid countryside, initiating children into a healthy, well-adjusted Canadian adulthood.
"A national puberty rite," writers Bruce Kidd and John Macfarlane once called it, "like bullfighting in Spain or cooking in France."
The myth, however, died a little this week when a National Hockey League player, Sheldon Kennedy, disclosed in interviews that he had been sexually assaulted more than 300 times over 12 years by his junior coach, Graham James. James was sentenced last week to 3 1/2 years in prison on the basis of information supplied to Canadian authorities by Kennedy, currently with the Boston Bruins, and a second person who played for the amateur team that James coached in tiny Swift Current, Alberta.
It is a shocking tale of sexual predation, in the heart of an institution that takes a half-million Canadian kids, ages 6 to 20, and molds a select few into professional hockey players. In the process, teenagers with the talent to catch a scout's eye -- some, such as Kennedy, as young as 14 -- are swapped among the coaches of the country's vast amateur system, often moved into the homes of host families a province or more away from their parents.
"In Canada, hockey is a lifestyle," 16-year-old Brock Boucher, a player for the Barrie Colts in central Ontario, said today. "Seeing things like this makes you wonder what kind of world you are in."
The system has come under fire before -- most recently in September when Canada lost the World Cup of Hockey to the United States -- and analysts either bemoaned the disappearance of the pondside pickup games of the country's past or criticized the coaches of the most elite amateur teams for importing too many Europeans.
But Kennedy's story has dealt another blow to innocence in a country where kids are carted to the rink on Saturday morning with the same dedication, perhaps even more, with which they are taken to church or school.
"Hockey can't help but be tarnished," said television host Ralph Benmergui, whose noon-hour show is a ready barometer of what's bothering Canadians.
In Alberta, home of the Western Hockey League in which James coached, league officials said they are instituting criminal background checks for all families who volunteer to house, or billet, young players, as well as for coaches and others close to the teams. Additionally, Commissioner Dev Dley said the league is planning to hire a counseling agency so its young charges will have a place outside the team to take their problems -- not be faced, as Kennedy was, with the fear that a misplaced confidence would end his chances of becoming a pro.
The Canadian Hockey League, which oversees all the junior leagues, announced today that it would institute a coaching recruitment policy.
"Every system is different, but we're in a very controlled environment here," said Daniel Tkaczuk, a center for Barrie. The Colts "do a good job of checking out the places we live and I don't think any player here feels threatened."
Canada's amateur hockey system is unique in North America, with the rights to even 14- and 15-year-old prospects aggressively pursued by the top clubs -- the 49 "major junior" teams that are a step away from professional hockey. They are divided into three leagues and play up to 72 games a season. Most of the players are 17 to 19 years old. They sit atop a pyramid of hundreds of other amateur clubs with lesser skilled or younger players, some playing solely for enjoyment, many maintaining longshot dreams of becoming professionals.
In that environment, a successful coach such as James can be a kingmaker, his favor and good graces a necessary condition for a pro contract.
"The coach is a godlike figure -- he holds all the cards," said Boucher, of the Barrie amateur team. "I guess in a situation like {Kennedy's} a kid can go home, but that is the end of your hockey career. That is the problem. There is no way to turn. It made me sick to my stomach."
Kennedy agreed to interviews about his case in part to address that problem and encourage other players with problems to seek help outside the closed world of junior hockey. Canadian media reported, also, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta were continuing their investigation and hoped Kennedy's openness would inspire others to talk.
"This is the hardest bloody thing I have ever had to work and deal with in my life and it will be the hardest thing I will ever have to deal with," Kennedy was quoted as telling the Toronto Star in an interview that included scenes of James brandishing a shotgun and turning the vulnerable youth into a virtual concubine.
Kennedy was on the road with the Bruins today and unavailable to comment, a team spokesman said.
Important as the junior system may be for the players, it also has deep roots in small prairie towns and farming villages throughout Canada. As the NHL has become more Americanized and commercial, junior league play maintains an attraction, a chance to see the next Wayne Gretzky before he signs an endorsement contract. The Kennedy case, to some degree, has dimmed that nostalgia.
"Hockey is our game," said Steve Ridgley, who was watching the Barrie team practice this afternoon. "It is what we do, and for something like this to happen in hockey makes it worse. People are just shocked."

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Kennedy's Story Is A Profile in Courage
By Tony Kornheiser
Jan 8, 1997

Kerri Strug putting her pain aside and running on a bad ankle, hitting the takeoff board, flying through the air and landing on that weak ankle -- sticking the landing even though her bones could barely support her; Kirk Gibson, hobbling to home plate in the bottom of the ninth in the World Series, hitting a home run on a three-and-two pitch and gimpily circling the bases, his knee buckling under the strain; Emmitt Smith, his shoulder falling out of its socket, rushing 32 times for 168 yards against the Giants to help his teammates keep the home-field advantage.
When people think of courage in sports they invariably think of athletes playing in pain.
But something we saw the other day from Boston Bruins hockey player Sheldon Kennedy may be the greatest act of courage of all. After years of keeping silent, Kennedy, now 27 years old, spoke out about more than 300 incidents of sexual assault committed upon him -- beginning when he was 14 years old -- by his junior hockey coach, Graham James.
James, 43, was coaching in Winnipeg when he met Kennedy at a hockey school in 1984. He traded for Kennedy's playing rights, then called Kennedy's parents to arrange for the boy to be sent to him. "It seemed like the chance of a lifetime," Kennedy recalled.
James soon began a pattern of sexual abuse against Kennedy that lasted years -- an unwanted sexual relationship that Kennedy says he felt powerless to stop.
"Every Tuesday and Thursday for six years, I had to go to his house," Kennedy said.
Kennedy has told his story to a variety of newspapers and to ESPN. I watched him yesterday on television; he was unable to hold back his tears as he spoke about the psychological scars that mark his soul. As I watched I felt my own tears, and I thought of what bravery it took for Kennedy to come forward -- to open himself now to a different kind of abuse.
Kennedy's court testimony helped put James in prison. But courts in Canada and in the United States have laws to protect the identity of sexual victims. Kennedy did not have to come forward and be identified publicly; another NHL player who testified that James assaulted him, as well, has declined to identify himself. Everyone can understand his reluctance. The crime is so unspeakably perverse that the victim inevitably feels tarred. Who wants to wear that label? Who is that strong? This is every inch taboo.
Victims of sexual predators shouldn't feel ashamed. But they often do. They often blame themselves for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or they blame themselves for doing something to attract the sick sexual advances. In matters of incest -- and in many ways the relationship between a coach and a young player is like a parent and a child -- victims often feel it was their fault.
Kennedy didn't know how to stop the relationship. And he didn't know who to tell.
"You do not have a clue what to do," Kennedy said. "You tell your mom, and she makes you come home. You tell your friends, and they will portray you as a gay guy. It's a very scary thing." It ate at Kennedy from the inside. He had this terrible secret and, and as a result, this terrible loneliness. He was tortured physically, and imprisoned psychologically.
"I have always felt like I was not normal," he said.
Now, with this great unburdening, Kennedy feels like he has freed himself. And we all wish that for him. But the sad truth is that the culture of sports is not particularly forgiving, especially when it comes to anything that has the scent of homosexuality, however unwarranted. A hockey dressing room is one of the last outposts of theatrical machismo. Kennedy may find himself shunned by players, who believe he should have been tough enough to resist his coach's advances -- to say nothing of the taunts he will hear in rinks around the NHL.
People will question why Kennedy didn't tell on his coach, or run away. But how could he? Almost no one does in that situation. We are talking about a 14-year-old boy with the dream of becoming a professional hockey player, and a 31-year-old adult who holds a mortgage on that dream. The boy is completely dependent on the man. The boy fears doing anything to displease him. Sheldon Kennedy, at 14, became physically and emotionally enslaved.
This same scene has been played out with scouts and altar boys, in boarding schools and in the supposed sanctuaries of religious houses. In so many of these stories the victim says the same thing: I thought I was not normal. It took me years to see that the rage and pain inside of me were not my doing.
As a parent this story is one of your worst nightmares. In Canada, the national dream is to play in the NHL. In the United States, maybe it's to play in the NBA or at Wimbledon or to compete in Olympic gymnastics. But if your child shows a particular talent in sports, and some coach tells you that he can refine that talent, and maybe help your child become a champion, well, what greater glory than that? Good parents, loving parents, caring parents happily bundle up their children, and send them off on the bus in pursuit of that glory -- like Sheldon Kennedy's parents did. And they tell their kids what every parent tells them: Listen to your coach now. Do what he says. Think of him as your father.
Where does a 14-year-old boy get the strength and the wisdom to go against that?
Who will believe him if he does?
Yesterday morning on TV I watched a 27-year-old hockey player throw open the curtains on the darkest corner of his past, and I saw him cry. I closed my eyes and I pictured the hockey games that I have seen, all the brave and bloody players skating by. I thought of how I had defined their courage by their ability to stop a puck with their bodies, or absorb the impact of a crosscheck, or take some stitches and get right back on the ice without missing a shift. And I thought: That's nothing compared with the courage it took Sheldon Kennedy to stand up and tell the world what happened to him while nobody else was looking.

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Rattler Players Not Surprised By Hockey Turmoil
Web posted 1/12/97
Globe-News Sports Writer

Amarillo Rattler right wing Layne Roland began being recruited to play hockey at the age of 13.

At 16, he left home to pursue his dream of someday playing professional hockey. Rattler backup goaltender Todd Laurin also left home at 16 for the same reason.

In Canada, hockey is a big-time sport.

And to reach the big time, you have to start young.

That means packing up, leaving home and learning to be independent at the same time American kids are just getting their driver's license.

And it also means putting a lot of trust and faith in your coach.

It is a common occurrence in Canada, one that is starting to come under scrutiny since Western Hockey League coach Graham James was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting two of his players, including current Boston Bruin Sheldon Kennedy, while coaching the Swift Current Broncos, an amateur hockey team in Canada.

The story regarding James, one of the more well-known coaches in Canada, is front-page news in the Great White North.

Try to picture in a similar situation a coach at a major NCAA Division I college football or basketball program in the United States, then you'll get an idea of the commotion this has caused in Canada.

"It is a pretty big deal," Roland said.

The controversy may cause several changes in Canadian amateur hockey, where several of the Rattlers and Amarillo head coach Rob Bremner got their start, and where coaches have a lot of power over their players.

The Associated Press reported Friday amateur hockey coaches and other volunteers in Canada could face police background checks as early as next season to protect young players from known sexual predators.

Bremner coached amateur hockey for nine years in Canada and won the Centennial Cup, the Canadian championship of Junior A hockey while coaching the Vernon Vipers.

"If you were involved in junior hockey in Canada, you knew who Graham James was," Bremner said. "He probably had the potential to be a coach in the NHL at some time.

"The thing is everybody kind of knew he was a little on the different side, and that he had those tendencies. It was kind of a well-known fact."

Roland, a Vernon, British Columbia, native, played against James' Swift Current Bronco team in amateur hockey as a member of the Portland Winterhawks.

"I wasn't that surprised when I heard about this because we got a player in a trade from Swift Current, and I heard that he was one of the guys that was abused by James," Roland said. "We had heard stories about that, but the kid really didn't say much. Around the league, you heard stories about Graham James."

In Canada, junior hockey is almost identical to professional hockey, minus the money. Players are recruited and traded, and coaches scout players at a young age and build their own teams. Players often stay with host families and attend school in the respective cities they play in and return home for the summer.

"What it is is a younger league for players that are just as talented as pro players," said Laurin, who was a member of Bremner's national championship team. "That is where all the NHL scouts are. You go to a Western Hockey League game in Canada, and you're going to see a scout from every team in the NHL."

"In Portland, they kind of thought the Winterhawks were professional," Roland said. "The other kids in school would ask if you're making all these millions of dollars, and you're not making anything. We would play in front of 10,000 fans a game."

In this almost semi-professional atmosphere, the coach is the boss, but Bremner is one who favors more stringent regulations.

"There are some very good programs, but I think you have to ask some questions before you just stick some guy behind the bench to coach kids," Bremner said. "There are requirements at certain levels now, but I think they're going to definitely add some things, and I think they absolutely should."

"This could bring about a lot of changes because of parents thinking more about letting their kids go at a young age," Roland said. "I know it was hard on my mom. I grew up pretty fast.

"The coach is a figure that you are supposed to be able to trust and leave your kids with, and then something like this happens. It is terrible."

As tough as it is to leave home at a young age, there are plenty of positives about junior hockey, and the recent controversy surrounding James shouldn't overshadow that.

"I was treated very well in Portland," Roland said. "It is a big jump, but you have to make that commitment and leave at a young age."

"My recommendation from my past experience would be to go to college and get a scholarship," Laurin said."What happened to me was that I played two years of major junior hockey, and then you lose your college eligibility. The only way to get it back is if you sit out a year. I would go for the scholarship; that way even if hockey doesn't work out, you still have your education to fall back on."

"There are good and bad things about either way, though. This was what I wanted to do, and my parents supported that. They're happy for me. We get paid to play hockey. This is the best job in the world."

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Betrayed Trust: Sexual Predator in Junior Hockey
By Jack McCallum and Richard O'Brien
Sports Illustrated, January 13, 1997

The 3 1/2-year plea-bargained prison sentence handed down last week in Calgary to acclaimed Canadian junior hockey coach Graham James hardly puts an end to a horrific tale of sexual abuse. For victims like Sheldon Kennedy, a Boston Bruins right wing who went public with his story of being abused by James for a decade, the agonizing memories never go away. "I always felt I was not normal," says Kennedy. "My life was so backwards." Adds his wife, Jana, "The biggest crime that Graham James committed was that he stole Sheldon's youth."

Kennedy, one of a number of NHL players who were coached by James in the junior leagues, met with reporters last Saturday in Calgary to discuss his struggle to overcome the pain inflicted by James, for whom he played four seasons on junior teams in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and who sexually abused him more than 300 times from 1984 through '94. Kennedy was also present at James's sentencing after James pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault. Kennedy didn't testify, but it was his gut-wrenching decision to go to Calgary police in August that prompted the investigation of James, who in 1989 was named Man of the Year by Inside Hockey for his coaching and his crusade against violence in the sport.

Kennedy says that James threatened him with a gun the first time he abused him, at age 14, and during the period that he played for him, James forcefully engaged him in lewd acts on a twice-a-week basis. So strong was James's hold on Kennedy that the abusive relationship continued even after he left James's team. Prosecutors said that James also sexually victimized another young player at least 50 times. That player was not named.

How could a respected coach--who helped produce talent such as Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic and Calgary Flames sniper Theo Fleury--get away with it? It's not all that surprising, given the environment of junior hockey. Kennedy was a troubled youth, a heavy drinker at 14, who longed to play pro hockey, a dream his family pushed. When the call came from James to join his team in Winnipeg, Kennedy says, "My parents couldn't get me to the bus fast enough." When he arrived, Kennedy, like most junior players, was away from home for the first time, living among strangers. Though he was deeply disturbed by the abuse, Kennedy saw James as an authority figure and a father figure, as well as a facilitator of his dreams. And James, says Kennedy, is a smart man who preyed on young players' vulnerabilities. Kennedy has been seeing a psychologist twice a week for seven months, but going public, he hopes, will be the best therapy.

"I've had a shield up," says Kennedy. "I do not let anybody in. People like Graham, it's like they open up your skin and replace your heart."


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Kennedy Takes Steps to Overcome Abuse
(c) 1997 Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Mass. (Jan 12, 1997 - 15:06 EST) -- They like to knock each other into walls in the NHL, the crowd cheering louder the longer they stay down. It is a world where violence is the norm and sensitivity is the gap in your gums where your tooth used to be.

And yet sensitivity is just what Boston Bruins forward Sheldon Kennedy is seeking, revealing this week a secret so deep that he didn't tell his wife until they were married for four months, a secret so dreadful that the only other person who knew about it is now serving 3 1/2 years in jail because of it.

Starting when he was 14 and continuing every Tuesday and Thursday for six years, Kennedy was sexually abused by his junior hockey coach. Kennedy said Graham James abused him more than 300 times and generally kept him so close "it was like we were married."

What happened to the 27-year-old Kennedy as a teenager is undeniably awful. But what has happened since he decided to go public has the chance to make a difference, for him and for hockey.

"Hockey is this macho, man's world. It's a scary thing to come out and say this has happened," Kennedy's wife, Jana, said this week. "But it's been totally, overwhelmingly supportive. You'd hoped that everybody would be, but it was a nice surprise. It made us proud of the hockey community."

Before Kennedy's first game since going public, on Tuesday in Philadelphia, Flyers captain Eric Lindros visited him in the visitors' locker room to express his support.

"Coming from a guy like that, to me, it means a lot," said Kennedy, who had never met Lindros before. "The Flyers on the ice would say stuff -- good stuff. It meant a ton to me, I'll tell you.

"When you're going through something like that, you feel like you're alone. Deep down, behind the hockey equipment and away from the game, I think a lot of people are sensitive and understanding."

Hockey fans once threw sugar at Flyers captain Bobby Clarke, a diabetic, and fans in Philadelphia once booed Santa Claus. But no one at the CoreStates Center booed Kennedy that night.

And Thursday night, when he scored a goal and assisted on the game-winner in a 5-4 victory over the Canadiens on the Bruins' home ice, hockey was all that mattered.

Kennedy wasn't surprised. Nor were his teammates.

"If you've got any sense of decency, you would be professional about it and support him," Bruins forward Adam Oates said.

Said Bruins coach Steve Kasper: "The hockey part of it is irrelevant, except that it's a credit to him that he was even able to put it behind him and play hockey."

But Kennedy hasn't completely put it behind him.

As a teenager from Elkhorn, Manitoba, Kennedy first met James at a hockey school near Winnipeg. Then coach of the Winnipeg Warriors, James traded for Kennedy's rights; soon, the boy was staying at James' home.

James, now 43, was one of the leading junior coaches in Canada, helping develop several current NHL stars and leading the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League to a national title in 1989. Kennedy scored 58 goals that year.

In his best NHL year, with Detroit in 1992-93, Kennedy scored 19 goals. He spent the last two seasons with Calgary. The Bruins signed him as a free agent in the offseason, but he has played in just 16 games this year, missing much of the season to attend James' trial in Calgary.

"The organization essentially told Sheldon that whatever he needed, it would be available to him," said Dr. Fred Neff, the Bruins team psychologist.

"What it comes down to is that (Bruins general manager) Harry Sinden is a pretty compassionate and understanding guy underneath the tough GM veneer. He certainly displayed it with Sheldon."

At 16-19-6, the Bruins haven't done much right on the ice this season. But it is widely agreed they have played this one well.

Neff, whose other duties for the Bruins involve giving potential draftees a personality test, met with the team's major- and minor-league players before Kennedy ever pulled on a Boston sweater, helping them understand what he was going through.

"I've been with the organization for 13 years, and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be going to the teams like that to talk about a player being molested," Neff said.

The players asked questions, and Neff tried to dispel the myths about sexual abuse.

"It was a real eye-opener. A lot of us didn't know a lot about it," Bruins forward Ted Donato said, commending the team and the players' union for providing counselors. "Guys in here really respect what he's gone through and that he's taken a stand -- not only for himself, but for others."

Kennedy sat at his locker at the team's practice rink this week, his eyes scanning the newspaper while a smile came over his face. It wasn't the sports page; it was the editorial page, and he was being called a hero.

And each sentence he reads, each pat on the back he gets from a teammate and each letter he gets from a fan dissolves his doubts about going public, Neff said.

Under Canadian law, sexual abuse victims' names cannot be published. Kennedy acknowledged that most people in Canada were aware of his role in James' conviction; still, the decision was not an easy one.

"Instead of hiding behind something that has bothered me my whole life, I'd like to turn it into a positive and try to help people," he said. "I think it's going to help me dealing with it, too."

Kennedy's daughter, Ryan, whose first birthday is on Sunday, is part of the healing process, too.

"I couldn't imagine being a parent and going through something and not making a stand of it when I think I'm in the position to do something," he said. "I think that I had to do something or I would never be able to live it down if something happened to her."

Even as he was being led off to prison because of Kennedy's testimony, James said he still wants to be friends with his former player. Kennedy doesn't expect that will happen.

"Physical pain is nothing. There's no sense of beating the guy up," he said. "What I'd like to do is invent a pill to give him that would mentally screw him up as he screwed me up, and have him deal with life. That's what I would like to do."

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Kennedy Retraces Past
By (Unknown Author)
Jan 12, 1997

Bruins F Sheldon Kennedy was so scared of his junior hockey coach when he was young he was unable to order a pizza by phone.
"I was afraid of the man at the other end of the line," he said.
Kennedy, who was sexually abused by former coach Graham James for 12 years, said he considered suicide several times.
"The last time was three months ago," he said. "I really thought about it. But I don't now. That is part of my past."
He sees a psychiatrist twice a week. "I really need that. I have to clean out my head."
Kennedy first admitted the abuse to his wife in the summer of 1995 because he was tired of hiding the truth from her.
But his teammates have been supportive.
"Stu Grimson {of the Hartford Whalers} sent me a fax," he said. "And other members have shown me their support."
"I am neither disappointed nor mad," Kennedy said. "I want only to live my life and help those who have suffered like me."

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Courage and Sheldon Kennedy
Dateline: 01/13/97

Hockey is a sport that takes great courage to play. Huge men crashing into each other at frightening speed. A hard rubber disk is blasted at speeds that can easily dismantle a face. I coach 12 and 13 year olds who are bigger faster and stronger than me. A few of them can really zing the puck. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm afraid to scrimmage with them. It takes great physical courage to play ice hockey.

Of course there is another kind of courage, the courage to face demons, the courage it takes to be Boston Bruins forward Sheldon Kennedy. Graham James, a well known and successful hockey coach, is in jail today after pleading guilty to 300 counts of sexual assault committed over a six year period. James is in jail because Sheldon Kennedy had the courage to take his story to the police and the public. A lonely kid riding a bus and a coach who can make or break a career.

The shock was felt throughout the hockey world, but no place more than in the Canadian Minor Hockey Association. No one is surprised -- not really -- but still, we are all devastated, and only partly because our hearts ache for Sheldon.

I'm also angry, bitterly angry, at Graham James because I am a hockey coach, and not just for what he did to Sheldon Kennedy. For what he did to me, and to men like me across North America.

I touch every one of my players dozens of times every practice and every game. I also shout and I yell and I wave my arms while they giggle and whisper and (hopefully) learn. I pat bums and cuff heads and trade high fives. I give my goaltender's shoulder a squeeze because he feels sick about the soft shot that got past him late in the game. I touch my players dozens of times every game and every practice. Showers. Wet towels flying across the room. The girls on the team do have a separate dressing room, and I don't go to that dressing room, but I touch the girls all the time, too.

As a coach I don't think I should have to look over my shoulder because I have been patting and hugging and grabbing hockey players for several years. While I resent no one for suddenly looking at me a little harder, it still makes me wince. None of them could really believe that about me, could they? The whole thing makes me wince and hesitate and feel lousy.

What James did was unforgiveable. He betrayed Sheldon Kennedy mostly, but he also betrayed every coach, every parent, and every child in minor hockey in North America. I won't forgive him, but I am going to forget him. I have decided to follow Sheldon's example, and try to find the courage not to let Graham James have the slightest effect on my life. I'm going to keep on patting and hugging and grabbing hockey players.

James is forgotten, but I'll remember Sheldon Kennedy forever.

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Coach Paid to Watch Sex
Canadian News Digest
Wednesday, Jan 15, 1997
By The Canadian Press

CALGARY (CP) -- Graham James, the disgraced former coach of the Swift Current Broncos, routinely paid his junior hockey players to have sex with women while he watched, say former members of the Western Hockey League team.

Darren McLean, 22, told CBC Radio he was cut from the team in 1994 just days after he and several other players met with team president John Rittinger and head scout Doug Mosher to complain about James's behavior.

"I told them about ... players being paid money to let Graham watch them have sex with their girlfriends or with any girl in town," McLean said.

McLean wouldn't comment further when contacted Wednesday and there was no immediate response from either Rittinger or Mosher.

The accusations continued the sexual abuse allegations that have plagued the WHL since James was sentenced Jan. 2 to 3 1/2 years in prison for abusing two players more than 350 times between 1984 and 1994.

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Sport and Society Broadcast

The breakdown of authority is often cited as a primary cause of the disorders and maladies of society. The loss of respect for authority is seen as a major problem among the young. Many of the symbols of authority have lost their luster and seem no longer capable of evoking deference.

Authority, most would agree, is a good thing, a necessary thing. As with all good things, however, in excess or when abused, it can turn bad. At times authority abused can be the most exploitive of forces and approach the essence of evil.

Last week out of the world of hockey came a story of the abuse of authority so disgusting and so evil that it seems, as it does in all cases like it, nearly beyond belief. Last week Sheldon Kennedy of the Boston Bruins revealed in testimony in a Calgary courtroom that his Junior League coach Graham James sexually abused him on at least 300 occasions over a six year period between 1984 and 1990. The abuse started when Kennedy was fourteen and his coach was in his early thirties. For over six years James had authority and total power over a young boy, and he abused that relationship repeatedly. Kennedy was not James' only victim.

Last July in a study sponsored by Sport Canada, twenty per cent of the athletes responding said that they had been sexually involved with their coaches while playing on national teams. Nearly ten per cent experienced "forced sexual intercourse," and some of them were under the age of sixteen when it happened. One would guess that the situation in the United States is not significantly different.

Why does this happen? It comes back to authority and power and fear. There are many authority figures in our lives, parents, teachers, the clergy, and of course coaches. All have power over us, and we all know of cases of sexual abuse involving these authority figures. For coaches the power can be overwhelming.

The relationship between player and coach takes all sorts of forms and shapes. The coach can be a parental substitute. The coach may be admired and respected as a person. The coach may be feared, because the coach holds the key to what the athlete wants m ost. The coach may be loved. And the coach will use all of these levers and buttons to teach and to motivate. From the first day of practice the coach has power because the coach will determine who will play and how much they will play. A coach can cut a player off the team, completely or partially. The coach seems to totally control the destiny of the player and therefore access to fame and fortune, to the pro-myth.

This places enormous responsibility on the coach, and with such a power balance in the relationship it opens endless opportunities for abuse. Players are completely vulnerable and literally at the mercy of coaches.

This is why in youth sport the position of coach is such a critical one. Young boys and girls are still feeling their way in life, learning what is and what is not acceptable, caught up in the quest for recognition and love, willing to do anything to please those who have the power to fill the empty spaces in their developing personalities.

Sexual abuse by coaches of athletes is too common, but it is not the only form of abuse practiced on young athletes. Physical, mental and verbal abuse are also too common. Here again coaches are no different than many others, expect that in coaching motiv ational techniques often depend heavily on physical, mental and verbal pressures that too easily can slip into abuse.

We all have seen it in practices and on the sidelines. Football coaches verbally abuse and physically assault their players in the name of "teaching," "motivating," and "discipline." Basketball coaches can be seen nightly on television berating their players in front of thousands of fans in the arena and hundreds of thousands at home. Hockey, swimming, track or any other number of sports are no different.

In a time when Vince Lombardi's name is invoked with great reverence, it would be good to recall that Coach Lombardi treated all his players alike. Like dogs. The infliction of physical and mental pain, the withholding of approval, were used routinely by Lombardi to motivate his players. These methods are accepted as definitions of "good coaching."

It is easy to condemn sexual abuse by coaches and it should be done loud and clear. Other forms of abuse should not be accepted either, because all of them undermine authority, defeat discipline, and create the dysfunctional human being. If authority is to be maintained and honored in society, it must be exercised with care and caution, especially when the powerful are dealing with the vulnerable. This is the charge to those who would be called "coach."

On Sport and Society this is Dick Crepeau reminding you that you don't have to be a good sport to be a bad loser.

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Sexual Abuse Scandal Rocks Youth Hockey
By Mark Clayton
Christian Science Monitor
Jan 16, 1997

In 1982, when Sheldon Kennedy was 14 years old, he left his parents' farm in Elkhorn, Manitoba, and moved to Winnipeg to play hockey under the supervision of a junior league coach.
Like uncounted thousands of Canadian boys before him, young Sheldon knew that leaving home was the price for his dream - to one day play big-league professional hockey.
But last week, Mr. Kennedy, who now plays for the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins, revealed just how high that price really was. He told reporters he was sexually abused by his coach at least 300 times over 12 years. He told them there were other victims of the same coach, including some in the NHL.
"This is a huge blow to the country," says Stephen Brunt, a sports columnist at the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper. "It's hard to explain to Americans where the sport fits into our culture. It's not just entertainment. It runs a lot deeper than that."
Canadians, who feel as deeply about hockey as Americans do about baseball, have been shocked.
Kennedy's revelations, first made to police last year, helped lead to the Jan. 2 conviction on sexual-abuse charges of Graham James, previously a respected coach of the WHL'S Calgary Hitmen and, before that, the Swift Current (Saskatchewan) Broncos. Mr. James, who pleaded guilty, is now serving a 3-1/2 year sentence.
Rumors had circulated about James for years but were ignored. Kennedy made the prosecution possible, many say. He was credible for having nothing to gain and much to lose by stepping forward. "This is the hardest ... thing I have ever had to work and deal with in my life," he told the Toronto Star.
Decades of rumors
His revelations are having a profound effect on Canadian junior hockey's macho culture.
"I was shocked. I think it's fair to say the entire hockey community was shocked" over the revelations about James, says Dev Dley, president of the WHL, in a telephone interview from Calgary.
But others suggest that junior hockey officials should not have been so surprised, given a decade of rumors of abuse in the WHL. Some observers say player complaints were often brushed aside in the pursuit of winning. James had been considered a highly successful coach. "Junior hockey in Canada is a business and a large number of its employees are still children, vulnerable and living far from home," a Globe and Mail editorial said. "Maybe we should stop being surprised."
The Canadian Hockey League, known as the "junior league," is an umbrella organization for three regional leagues (including the WHL) with 49 teams and about 1,300 players under age 19.
The CHL players are the cream skimmed from more than 500,000 young players who begin organized hockey as early as age six. By contrast, the United States, with a population 10 times larger than Canada, has about 375,000 young players.
Canadian Hockey League officials brag that the CHL produces 2 out of every 3 NHL players. It is a rigorous system that drafts youths under age 18 to play on teams in cities far from home. They live with host families.
But from the time they make the move, it is the coach who, as Kennedy says, is "the door" that will swing open or shut on their hockey dream.
"The coach has nearly absolute power to mold and shape a young player," says Sandra Kirby, a professor of sociology at the University of Winnipeg. Professor Kirby, a former Olympic rower, has studied the sexual abuse of Canadian athletes in many sports, including hockey.
"Usually the system works, and the coach makes good judgments," she says. "But when a coach has sexual motives, the athlete is completely unprotected. He or she is forced into accepting the coach's influence and abuse or has to get off the road to success."
Junior hockey in Canada puts great power over young players in the hands of coaches and volunteers. And parents often know little about the people running their sons' lives. This problem is compounded for young boys when the last words ringing in their ears from parents as they walk out the door is "do whatever the coach tells you," Kirby says.
What Canada is awakening to is that sexual abuse of children, a global societal ill, extends to sports - including hockey, Kirby says. Her research, released at a conference last summer prior to the Atlanta Olympics, showed that more than 50 of the 266 athletes surveyed - all of whom were competing for Canada - had had sexual intercourse with a coach or someone in authority. Some said they had been forced. One in 5 was under age 16 when the act occurred. More than 90 percent of the cases involved female athletes.
Parental involvement is crucial
Officials in Australia, the US, Britain, Germany, and Norway now are planning surveys similar to Kirby's.
For Canadians to accept that hockey - long called "Canada's true religion" - is vulnerable is hard. "This is our essence, everything that we are, so that when it happens to our teams, it happens to us," says Roy MacGregor, a hockey coach and sports columnist for the Ottawa Citizen. "Canadians have a very sentimental view of hockey."
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police would henceforth screen all coaches and volunteers for criminal convictions. Anyone with a record of abuse or related crimes would be excluded from the league, they said.
USA Hockey, the governing body for American hockey, began promoting the background checks to its affiliated leagues in 1994. So far, USA Hockey affiliates in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Illinois have adopted the policy. In Massachusetts, where 30,000 children play in 120 town programs, background checks in 1994 into 9,000 coaches and volunteers resulted in nine or 10 individuals being excluded from participating, officials say.
Both USA Hockey and CHL officials concede, however, that such precautions would not have identified James, who had no prior criminal record. The only solution is for parents to be vigilant about really knowing who their children are with.
Canadians have "such faith in hockey that we believed it had a purity that cast its spell over everything and everyone," Mr. MacGregor says. "But now we can see it's really incumbent on the parents."

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1/20/97 - Hockey Pays Price For Gay Tolerance
Thanks to the courage of NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, the ugly truth about predatory homosexual coaches finally comes out
Calgary Sun

Imprisoned coach James: 'My problem was I cared too much.'

Over the past decade, Canadians have been scandalized time and again by stories of men groping and sodomizing young males in residential schools, orphanages and boy's clubs. The one place no one expected such abuse to occur was in that last, great bastion of macho culture in Canada: hockey. The country's national sport had always been spared such sordid scandals, and the thousands of parents who enrol their sons in hockey have done so confident that the worst they will come home with is a chipped tooth or a few stitches. Hockey is a sport that has always celebrated grit and tolerated fighting; any rumours about limp-wristed players or coaches were just that--rumours.

So most Canadians reacted in disbelief when Graham James, a popular and respected junior hockey coach, was arrested last November for sexually molesting two former players. Their reaction turned to horror and disgust on January 2, when the 43-year-old pleaded guilty in Calgary Provincial Court. The former head coach of the Western Hockey League's Swift Current Broncos and Calgary Hitmen admitted that he preyed upon two teenaged players to satisfy his carnal cravings. The court heard how he committed more than 350 sexual acts on the boys between 1984 and 1994. Two victims had stepped forward to testify against James, one of them Sheldon Kennedy, now with the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins. But the case led to disclosures about other coaches molesting players, notably the late Brian Shaw, former head coach of the World Hockey Association's Edmonton Oilers, who, according to several of his former charges, was also a ravenous homosexual predator.

The saga has left many people wondering how such abuse could continue unchecked for so long in the virile, unreconstructed world of hockey. Rumours about James and Shaw circulated for years, but neither their teams nor the league were willing to confront them. One possible explanation is that an increasingly permissive society protected both men from public exposure and embarrassment. Gary Bollinger, an ex-Broncos vice-president who was told by a parent in 1986 that James was having sex with a 15-year-old player, told reporters last week: "I figured if they were doing it, they were doing it with consent." Grand Centre psychiatrist Dr. Michael Ferri responds, "Thirty years ago people wouldn't have cared if it was consensual sex or not. They would have said this is wrong and fired the coach." But in the past few decades, he says, "The homosexual issue has blurred the boundaries of sexual behavior and morality."

Gwen Landolt, a Toronto lawyer and vice-president of REAL Women, says that given the growing social acceptance of homosexuality, Canadians should brace themselves for more deviants to pop up behind the benches of young hockey players. Recent court decisions have lowered the age of consent for sodomy and governments are increasingly instructed by the courts to prevent employers from discriminating against homosexuals. Moreover, recent studies have shown that homosexuals are over-represented in the pedophile population. To these homosexual predators, the dressing rooms of pubescent boys are no longer off-limits.

Toronto homosexual Gerald Hannon, a former journalism instructor and vocal advocate of so-called "intergenerational sex", believes that what James did was not "necessarily unethical." He told the Calgary Herald that the former coach merely displayed a lapse in judgement. For practical reasons, he said, "When you're in a position of authority, it's best to keep sex out of it." Hannon conceded that to have the case "vigorously thrust before the nation's eyes...is just horrifying to people." Still, he thought it strange that a society which willingly grants legal rights to homosexuals would react in disgust to the image of Graham James pressing his naked body against a frightened 14-year-old.

Bellicose hockey commentator Don Cherry probably summed up the average Canadian's feelings about James on Hockey Night in Canada two weekends ago. With James and fellow prisoners at the Edmonton Institution tuned in, Mr. Cherry called the sex abuser a "creep" for targeting the youngest and most defenceless boys on the club. "The kid was only 14-years-old. To think the guy only got three-and-a-half years, it's unforgiveable for something like that." Mr. Cherry added that had he been the judge, "I'd have drawn and quartered the S.O.B." James responded to Cherry's verbal barrage through jailhouse interviews with the media where he defended his obsession with Sheldon Kennedy.

The relationship between James and Kennedy dates back to 1984, when the two met at a summer hockey school in Winnipeg. At the time, James was scout and incoming head coach for the WHL's Winnipeg Warriors. He had been coaching since the mid-1970s, after his own junior hockey career was cut short by illness. He earned an English degree and taught school while working his way up through the bantam and midget coaching ranks in Winnipeg. By all accounts, James was smitten by Kennedy, an exuberant 14-year-old farm boy from Elkhorn, Sask., who, like so many his age, dreamed of playing professional hockey.

James obtained the rights to Kennedy's junior career and asked his parents to send their son to Winnipeg so the pair could discuss his future. The Kennedys were flattered. "That seemed like the chance of a lifetime," the hockey player said last week. "My family couldn't get me on the bus fast enough." The first night he spent in James' apartment, Kennedy awoke to the sound of his new coach crawling toward him. Then he heard a rustling in the closet and when he flicked on the light, he saw James reclining on the bed, a shotgun in his hands and a strange look on his face.

James, then 31, never actually pointed the weapon at Kennedy, but about an hour later he returned under cover of darkness, attempted oral sex, masturbated on the boy's feet and fondled him. It was the first of an estimated 300 incidents over a six-year period. Some of the episodes, which included attempts at anal sex, occurred in the basement of the Kennedy family home in Elkhorn.

The hockey player, who is now 27, testified he felt powerless to stop the assaults. They continued throughout his junior hockey career, as he followed the coach to different teams. Because James held his junior rights, Kennedy believed that to continue in hockey he had to stay with his abuser; he worried that blowing the whistle would destroy his career and he doubted that anybody would believe him anyway. "If I told my mom she would have made me come home," he said last week. "You tell your friends and they will just portray you as a gay guy."

The teenager became increasingly isolated and, as a result, more dependent on the coach. He also began drinking heavily and developed a reputation for reckless behaviour. Calgary sports psychologist Merry Miller observes that, although Kennedy may have been physically strong enough to fight off his molester, coaches wield tremendous psychological power over their players. This is particularly true at the elite levels of sport where they spend vast quantities of time together and the player is disconnected from his home and family.

James coached Calgary Flames star Theoren Fleury and the Warriors in Moose Jaw--the franchise had moved from Winnipeg--for the 1984-85 season. In 1986 he was hired as head coach and general manager of the Swift Current Broncos. He promptly traded for Kennedy. James had a successful eight years coaching the Broncos, even though his tenure began in tragedy. In his first season, four Broncos were killed in a bus crash while travelling to a game in Regina. James was credited with helping his players through an emotionally difficult period. He told Kennedy at the time: "If I lost you, I wouldn't be able to go on."

"It was like I was his wife, or his lover," Kennedy told police investigators. Last week he told the Calgary Herald, "I believe that Graham truly fell in love with me, but he knew exactly what he was doing, and he should have realized that it wasn't accepted, because I had mentioned to him many times that I hated it, and I mean, s--t, there was no willingness on my part, believe me."

James would summon Kennedy to his residence on Tuesday and Thursday evenings to satisfy his lust. Kennedy said he and others knew James was inviting over other players on the team. Despite what has happening off the ice, the coach enjoyed considerable popularity in Swift Current, a hockey-crazed town of 16,000. As an articulate, non-smoking, non-drinking bachelor, he wasn't like other coaches. He quoted Shakespeare in the dressing room and seemed genuinely interested in the well-being of his players.

John Short, an Edmonton Journal sports columnist and former talk radio host, says the coach's Memorial Cup-winning team was fast, feisty and unusually well-behaved. "They didn't fight," recalls Mr. Short. Following a radio interview with James one year, Mr. Short was impressed with the coach's approach to hockey: he detested the excessive violence that characterized much of the NHL and was interested in player education. Observes the columnist: "I got the feeling that he was in touch with the game in a positive way."

As for Kennedy, in 1990 he moved on to a troubled NHL career--four seasons with the Detroit Red Wings followed by a two-year stint with the Calgary Flames. He joined the Boston Bruins this season. Coming out of Swift Current he was a highly-touted offensive threat but in the big league he was hampered by injuries and struggled to find the net, potting only 19 goals in his best year (1992-93) in Detroit. He continued drinking heavily. Worse, he ran into trouble with the law on several occasions, facing charges of reckless driving and drug possession.

In interviews from the Edmonton Institution last week, James displayed no remorse for preying on Kennedy and claimed he helped the athlete work through his drug and alcohol problems. "I became the key person in his life," he told the Edmonton Journal. "I helped him into clinics and I helped him out of clinics." He also said that he knew Kennedy was not gay and did not enjoy their sexual encounters, but "at no time did I think it was a major thing for him."

While Kennedy struggled as an NHL rookie, James established relationships with other junior players. Another former Bronco accused the coach of abusing him between 1992 and 1995. The athlete, whose identity is protected by court order, had an experience remarkably similar to Kennedy's, right down to the Tuesday and Thursday home visits. He told investigators of about 50 sexual encounters with James. Police are still investigating allegations that James may have molested more than a dozen others.

Rumours abounded about the coach's sexual conduct, but allegations were either dismissed as untrue or ignored. Team owners and management refused to take action. Some of his former players told reporters they never saw anything improper. But one ex-Bronco told the Calgary Herald that in 1993, James' infatuation with his new companion "got a little out of control" and was, at times, "blatant and disturbing. When we were in Seattle he'd take [the player] out to the Space Needle, take him out to supper, buy him clothes, things like that." He says the relationship became so overt that during the Broncos' 1993-94 season, a group of veteran players confronted the coach. He reportedly broke down, confessed he was gay and agreed to resign at the end of the season.

Despite his abrupt departure from the Broncos, the Western Hockey League allowed James and ex-Bronco president John Rittinger to form the Calgary Hitmen the next season. Ed Chynoweth was league president at the time and now owns the Edmonton Ice, another WHL franchise. He admitted two weeks ago that he heard rumours about James, but since no formal complaint was laid, he declined to take action. Conversely, current president Dev Dley claims the league heard no rumours about sexual impropriety. The WHL has since imposed a gag order on all personnel.

The second victim followed James from the Broncos to the Calgary Hitmen where he continued to be victimized until, in 1995, he had a fist fight with the coach in the dressing room and refused to return to James' house. Last August, the player went to the police, sparking the three-month investigation that led to the charges. The Hitmen fired James in early September.

The arrest came as a shock to James, who seemed to think he could continue preying on vulnerable young men indefinitely. His lawyer, Lorne Scott, claimed in court that his client was merely a gay man attracted to young men. "If you're asking me if I was feeling guilty all the time, I don't know how to answer that," James told the Journal from prison. "I guess I wished it were acceptable. I thought I was living in ancient Greece or something." James implied that molesting 14-year-old boys was not wrong the relationship was consensual and affectionate. "My problem was I cared too much and got carried away," he told the Calgary Sun. "If [the complainants] didn't see anything wrong with it, then I guess I didn't feel guilty."

Brian Shaw, the former coach of the WHA Edmonton Oilers and long-time owner of the Portland Winter Hawks, apparently thought the same way. He allegedly abused players for 25 years until his death in 1993 of AIDS-related cancer. The native of Nordegg, Alta., coached junior hockey across western Canada for many years. He and his close friend Ken Hodge were co-owners of the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings, which they moved to Portland in 1976.

Edmontonian Larry Hendrick said last week that in 1971, when he was a 16-year-old goaltender for the Oil Kings, Shaw invited him to have sex, saying it would improve his chances of playing in the National Hockey League. "Advances or suggestions were made openly and blatantly," Hendrick told an Edmonton paper, adding that he never consented but others did. Last week NHL veteran Jim Harrison alleged that in 1974 he quit the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA because of Shaw's aggressive sexual advances.

Current Calgary Flame defenceman Jamie Huscroft is one of several ex-Winter Hawks to come forward with stories of how Shaw propositioned players. He told the Calgary Sun two weeks ago that once Shaw "called me into his office, reached for me and said, 'Can I?'" The 16-year-old promptly left the room and was traded two weeks later.

John Kordic, the 27-year-old NHL enforcer who died in Quebec provincial police custody in 1992, was also an object of Shaw's desire. When Kordic left Edmonton to play in Portland in the mid-1980s, says a friend who asked not to be named, he was a skinny goal scorer and "timid, with a capital-T." This friend, who also tried out for Portland, says that Kordic's personality changed dramatically while he was with the Winter Hawks, and he became the most notorious goon in a brawl-laden league.

Kordic brought his fighting skills into the NHL and his life off the ice was marked by alcoholism and drug abuse, as well as wild mood swings and frequent clashes with police.

"It's kind of an uncanny, the similarity [between Kordic and Kennedy]," observes the friend. When Kordic and his pal tried out for Portland together, Kordic told him that Shaw said "he liked what he saw [on the ice] but he really liked what he saw in the shower." "John never told me anything specifically," continues the friend, "but he often made comments which suggested that he was [sexually] involved."

The sexual abuse by James and Shaw was able to continue unchecked for so long, theorizes Edmonton sports psychologist Murray Smith, because people want to be believe that sport, and hockey in particular, is an unwelcome environment for homosexuals. The reality is, he points out, that "what goes around in society comes around in sport." Sports columnist Short agrees. "I think we're caught in a bit of a time warp," he says. "The Graham James story was around but nobody pursued it. I don't think it's excusable, but your mind refuses to go down those roads."

Psychologist Smith, a former coach of the University of Alberta Golden Bears football team, also thinks that homosexuals are finding an increasing level of acceptance in sport. Los Angeles Kings centre Ray Ferraro said last week that when he played in Portland he knew Shaw was a homosexual but had no problem with it. "If Graham James would have kept his lifestyle apart from Sheldon Kennedy and the other kids that he preyed upon, nobody would care."

These days it is difficult to follow up on rumours of homosexual misconduct because it is politically incorrect to put gays under any kind of critical scrutiny, observes Gwen Landolt. "It opens an organization up to the charge of being "homophobic," observes the lawyer, whose three sons all played minor hockey in Ontario. She argues that the continuing legal and medical acceptance of homosexuality will make the entrenchment of gays and lesbians in minor sports all the more impregnable. Coaches fired for being gay would cry discrimination, and likely win.

In every province except Alberta, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., homosexuals already enjoy legal protection from discrimination. Alberta may be next. Gay activist Delwin Vriend, who was fired by an Edmonton Christian college for flaunting his homosexuality, is awaiting a hearing before the Supreme Court of Canada later this year. His bid to win legal rights for gays was foiled by the Alberta Court of Appeal last year. If the Supreme Court overturns the decision, it will be almost impossible to fire a gay hockey coach in Alberta.

The courts have become so approving of homosexuality, observes Landolt, that had James engaged in consensual sodomy with Kennedy, his actions might not have led to a charge. In 1995, the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Federal Court of Canada lowered the age of consent for anal sex from 18 to 14. Justice Rosalie Abella of the Ontario court argued that the age of consent for vaginal intercourse was 14 and anal sex was a "basic form of sexual expression for gay men." James' only crime was that he acted from a position of authority.

The psychiatric profession has for years considered homosexual behavior normal. More recently, it has broadened the list of approved sexual predilections to include pedophilia. In the 1994 edition of the standard psychiatric diagnostic manual, a pedophile is defined as someone with intense sexual urges for young children, is at least 16-years-old and is five years older than his prey. But a pedophile is only said to suffer from a disorder if his desires cause "clinically significant distress" that impairs his social functioning.

Since James was convicted, the media have painstakingly downplayed his homosexuality and ignored the known link between homosexuality and pedophilia. While it is true that most pedophiles are heterosexual, gays are over-represented in the pedophile population. The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (JSMT) and Psychological Reports found in the mid-1980s that roughly 35% of pedophiles are homosexual, even though gay males make up less than 2% of the population. Mathematically, that means a homosexual is 26.4 times more likely to be a pedophile. The JSMT also found in 1992 that heterosexual pedophiles commit a lifetime average of 20 acts of child molestation, compared to 150 by homosexual pedophiles.

Although these statistics should raise concerns among sport officials about the hiring of known homosexuals, no one is speaking about it publicly. Officials from various sports organizations across the country vowed last week to step up their screening measures for coaches; but only to weed out those with criminal records.

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan RCMP has widened its hunt for James' victims to include a number of NHL players; the league has advised victims to step forward. Whether they do depends on how other NHL players treat Kennedy, predicts Bill LaForge, a long-time WHL coach. "I salute [Kennedy] for having the fortitude to speak out," says LaForge, "but there are other guys that have to come forward if this is going to be cleaned up."

With a three-and-a-half-year sentence James could be on day parole by September and full parole in 14 months. Despite his hurt feelings over Kennedy's accusations, which he claimed were exaggerated, he said last week that he hoped they could still be friends. For his part Kennedy said he wanted one more meeting with James because, "I'd be able to tell in his eyes whether he really knew what he did was wrong."

--By Les Sillars

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Hockey Pays The Price For Gay Tolerance- Reader Response
Dated February 24, 1997

A conspiracy of silence?
Re: "Hockey pays the price for gay tolerance," (Jan. 20). It's been a few years since I have read your magazine on a regular basis, and am delighted that it has retained its ideological blinders. If I recall correctly, some years ago you blamed the Mount Cashel affair on our permissive society. You now attribute Graham James' abuse to "an increasingly permissive society." The real reason he was tolerated for so long, I suspect, is that he produced winning hockey teams. The local worthies were, as a result, willing to overlook the rumours about him. I think this whole affair says a lot more about our "win at any cost" society than about its increasing permissiveness.

Lech Lesiak,

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Darkening The Hockey Dream
By James Deacon
Jan 20, 1997

The Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse crisis and counselling agency does not usually have anything to do with hockey.
The majority of its clients are sexually abused women and female adolescents. But ever since Jan. 2, when Western Hockey League coach Graham James was convicted of sexual assault and sent to a federal penitentiary for 31/2 years, there has been a surge in calls to the agency's 24-hour crisis line from sexual-abuse survivors-males in particular. CCASA executive director Danielle Aubry says the centre, which normally gets one man phoning every two or three days, received about 15 calls from men in the week following the James conviction. And most of them came after Sheldon Kennedy, one of James's victims and now a Boston Bruins winger, went public with his harrowing tale of abuse. Aubry said the player's decision to speak out may convince other male victims to seek help. "As a hockey player in Canada," she said, "I think he has tremendous potential to be very influential for all kids, but more so for boys."
The James case cut to the very heart of a Canadian institution and challenged basic assumptions about coaches, kids and the hell-bent pursuit of the hockey dream. Fans well know that major-junior hockey, the game's last rung before teens turn professional, is a high-pressure, rough-and-tumble world where young men ride the buses that they hope will one day take them to the NHL But James's conviction cast Canada's player-development system in a shocking new light and set off a wave of soul-searching throughout amateur sport. Kennedy's courage was the silver lining. "It is a big thing for me," said the married father of one, "to heighten awareness and let people know it is all right" to speak out.
Last week, even as other players came forward with new allegations of sexual improprieties in junior hockey, some observers were not surprised. University of Winnipeg sociology professor Sandra Kirby, who co-authored a 1996 study of sexual harassment and abuse of athletes, said that nearly nine per cent of current and retired national team members who responded to her poll reported a forced sexual assault by a coach or other team authority figure. One in five of those assaults was on an athlete who was under 16, and most went unreported. "The athletes almost unanimously said they did not know who to turn to," she said. "Most sports agencies have policies in place, but athletes aren't using them."
The James conviction was stunning enough. The 43-year-old native of Summerside, PE.I., admitted to assaulting Kennedy 300 times starting in 1984, and the other victim, whose identity was protected by a court-ordered publication ban, more than 50 times ending in 1994. But if anything, the bad news got worse last week. Although Calgary police said the investigation was closed, some reports claimed James abused other players as well-including one who is a current NHL starduring the coach's stints with WHL teams in Moose Jaw and Swift Current, Sask., between 1984 and 1994. And it emerged that team officials in both places were suspicious of his close relationships with some players and that the Moose Jaw Warriors had fired him as a result. However, WHL president Dev Dley said that no one made a formal complaint so the league did not investigate.
Canadian Hockey League commissioner Dave Branch, who presides over the country's three top junior leagues, said the James case shows the need for victims to press charges. "If there has been sexual abuse in hockey," he said, "then we should get it out in the open where we can deal with it." Increasingly, that is exactly what is happening. In the south-central B.C. town of Grand Forks, the general manager of the local Junior B hockey team was charged with three counts of sexual assault on two young men. Donald Middleborough, who was a scout for Swift Current when James was the coach there, is scheduled to enter a plea in court on Jan. 30.

Meanwhile, several former WHL players charged that longtime Portland Winter Hawks owner Brian Shaw, who died of AIDS-related cancer in 1993, repeatedly propositioned players during his long career coaching and managing junior teams. Shaw, who also coached the Edmonton Oilers of the now-defunct World Hockey Association, allegedly lured the boys with gifts, trips to Las Vegas and promises to help their careers. Two league executives said they had concerns about Shaw at the time and told then-commissioner Ed Chynoweth, but that nothing was done. Chynoweth, now general manager of the WHL's Edmonton Ice, denied hearing anything more than rumors. "If I had proof [Shaw]molested a player," Chynoweth said, "I certainly like to think I would have stepped in and gotten more information."
Researchers and psychologists, however, say that victims are reluctant to come forward. The offenders are usually in a position of power over the athletes, and the victims, especially boys in the macho environment of sports, feel ashamed for not being able to take care of themselves. And Judy Goss, a Toronto-based sports psychologist who works with the Canadian Olympic Association, says athletes who do press charges almost always report the abuse long after it occurred. "The predators have incredible power over the athletes," she said.
Virtually every amateur sport in the country felt the impact of the James conviction. "I think that any sports organization would be stupid to stick its head in the sand on this issue," said Harold Cliff, chief executive of the Canadian Swimming Association. "We all have to examine the policies we have in place and see if we can't make them better." For some parents, the James story undermines the accepted convention of families sending girls and boys away from home to pursue ever-higher levels of their sports. Officials and psychologists say that while most billeted athletes are well looked after, younger kids are vulnerable nonetheless. Kennedy, for instance, left home to play hockey at age 14 and was quickly befriended by James. And 14, many say, is simply too young. "In hockey, they get shuffled around and traded," says Goss. "It makes it difficult to make friends at school, which in turn makes the coach so much more important in their lives."
Beset by troubling revelations, the WilL announced it would require police checks on all coaches and team officials, and that it would set up an 800 telephone number for victims to confidentially report abuses. Branch said the CHL will enact national guidelines for harassment and abuse, possibly as soon as next fall. But some hockey officials maintained that screening would not keep out predators like James who had no police recordand that, for some leagues, such measures are not an option. "What police department has the time to review the backgrounds of 3,500 coaches?" asked John Gardner, president of the mammoth Metropolitan Toronto Hockey League. "And that doesn't include our house leagues."
Though incarcerated last week in the Edmonton Institution for psychiatric evaluation prior to being sent to a federal penitentiary, a seemingly unrepentant James telephoned media outlets to defend himself. He claimed his life in prison had been endangered when blustering hockey analyst Don Cherry launched an expletive-laden tirade against him on Hockey Night in Canada. James then went on to say he felt "betrayed" when Kennedy reported him to the police. "He doesn't get it," said Kennedy. "He just doesn't get it."
Kennedy, meanwhile, returned to the business of hockey last week. He scored one goal and set up the winner in the Bruins' 5triumph over the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 9. But in a wider arena, his willingness to reveal the pain of prolonged abuse may have won a far greater victory. "It's a horrible story, but I think it's all for the best," said University of British Columbia sports psychologist Susan Butt. "It was a very courageous thing for him to do, and maybe people will finally face up to the fact that this stuff happens in sport."

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Reliving A Nightmare
By Anonymous
Jan 20, 1997
"Trust your coach," we tell our kids as we send them off to compete in a sports event. "Do whatever he says."
That's exactly what Sheldon Kennedy did at age 14. Thirteen years later, we learn the chilling details about how Graham James, Kennedy's junior hockey coach, sexually abused him more than 300 times over a 10-year period. Several times James even pulled a shotgun on Kennedy to make sure he still had him in his clutches.
Kennedy isn't looking for a standing ovation. He just wants to straighten out his life-a life he says included alcoholism because he didn't have confidence and was always looking for a crutch.
Kennedy is a journeyman right winger for the Bruins, but he says he might have been better-if not for the burden he has carried for so long. He disclosed his story after testifying against James, who was sentenced to three years in prison.
"He took the youth right out of me," Kennedy says. "My years from 14 until now have kind of been in a fog. I'll never forgive him."
Another NHL player refused to reveal his identity after testifying against James. But Kennedy went public because he said there was nowhere for him to turn. Now, he wants to make sure youngsters realize they can say no.
"I'm in a position to do something about it, being a pro athlete," Kennedy says. "I can make it known to kids that it is all right to come forward."

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Machismo Silences Victims of Abuse
Web posted on Monday, January 27, 1997
By SÈbastien Lavertu

The conviction of Canadian junior hockey coach Graham James for sexually abusing teenage players has sent shock waves throughout the North American sports world. The testimony of one of James' victims, Sheldon Kennedy, now with the NHL's Boston Bruins, is equally significant in a sport known for its macho culture. Indeed, Kennedy's courageous decision to publicly disclose the abuse speaks volumes of the kinds of actions needed to change the dominant male ethos.

Last week, the CBC broadcast a report on sexual abuse in sport. One of the people interviewed spoke of the fact that the general tendency of men not to be emotionally intimate and open with each other is a large contributing factor to abuse being shrouded in secrecy. This is especially the case in locker rooms where "scoring" with the girls and acting tough are the strictly enforced norm. There isn't much room to manoeuvre. Also, sexual abuse is a very delicate subject for many, especially between men. The CBC reporters who sought officials to interview for the program found that very few were willing to speak to them about the problem.

The fact is that there is a myth out there that men, by their very nature, should be able to defend against this kind of thing. As one Ottawa 67s hockey player commented in a recent Globe and Mail article: "If a coach [sexually abused] me, I would have killed him, taken my stick to him." The belief implies that if a man is unable to fend off abuse, then he is less than a real man. This leaves male victims in the double bind of feeling that they will be seen as weaklings or wimps if they talk, thus further promoting the conspiracy of silence that is a common trait of all sexual abuse. This is why the honest words of Sheldon Kennedy are so important. His admission to being abused has put a dent in the belief that men who can't protect themselves are failures. When authority figures abuse their privileged positions of power, gender is not adequate protection.

Also, it is important to acknowledge that sexual abuse by men against women is still the more common situation. As one former female athlete pointed out, the abuse of men by other men gets more media coverage because of its relative rarity, but abuse between men and women is much more prevalent. In addition, women are much further ahead in coping with the problem, as they have formed numerous support groups and written extensively on the issue. Men recovering from abuse have an excellent example to follow here.

The CBC also pointed to homophobia as another influencing aspect of the tragedy. I couldn't believe the courage of one hockey coach interviewed, who said it was common for players on his team who did not perform adequately to derogatorily be called "faggots" by their team mates. To him, this further strengthened the silence around revealing abuse, as many would be afraid of being labelled gay. I admired the honesty of the coach because homophobia is a prerequisite to growing up as a man in North American society. I know some men who were teased and beaten up in high school simply for being "pussies" and "faggots." Many weren't even gay. They just didn't fit the definition of masculinity (whatever that is). Why have we so closely intertwined hatred of homosexuality with the male identity? Whatever the reason, it is the cause of many men hiding abusive situations because of the implications of being seen as gay.

The purpose of my digressions is not to bash men over the head for being such bad little boys-it is simply to create a space where we can talk a little more honestly about who we are and where we are going. Sheldon Kennedy, however, has gone beyond talking about the problem and taken concrete action. This goes a long way towards challenging men to make more room for the most common of human experiences-simply expressing painful feelings! In addition to giving new courage to other abuse survivors, Kennedy gives all men an example of one who has decided to speak the truth. And he has done so despite living in a society where such admissions, whether because of machismo or homophobia, are very difficult.

SÈbastien Lavertu is a University College student.

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Abuse Revelation Gives Kennedy Freedom At Last
January 30, 1997
By Karen Crouse

Sheldon Kennedy checked into a hotel near Miami Arena Wednesday night under an alias, a concession to his sudden celebrity. The truth is, the Boston Bruins right winger never has felt freer to be himself. Kenendy's decision earlier this month to share with the public the story of his sexual abuse by his former junior hockey coach Graham James was a giant step toward regaining control in his life.

"I still don't think the magnitude of what I did has really hit me," said Kenendy, who will suit up for the Bruins tonight in their game against the Panthers. "All I know is I'm more relaxed as a person. I have more inner peace."

Kennedy, 27, has played in nine games since taking a break to see James sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison after a trial in Calgary. He has one goal and five points in those games. He had three goals and seven points in 14 games before going public with his story on Jan. 4.

"I feel so much better on the ice," said Kennedy, who had four shots and no points in the Bruins' 4-1 home loss to the Panthers last Wednesday.

"I thought he played as strong a game against us the other night as I've seen him play," said Panthers coach Doug MacLean, who coached Kennedy in Detroit. "I was happy for him."

The support Kennedy has received from the other players in the league has eased his mind and his burden.

"It's been great," Kennedy said. He added that he's been pleasantly surprised by how many players have offered their support and in many cases pledged thier time and money to the cause Kennedy has brought to the fore.

What Nicole Brown Simpson did in death to the issue of spousal abuse, Kennedy is doing to the sexual abuse of children.

"I knew how scared everyone is who has been involved in something like this because I lived it for so many years," Kennedy said. "I came forward mostly for me. But I also thought that the position I was in, being in the public eye already because I was in the NHL, I could make a stand and maybe help increase people's awareness."

That he has done. The proof is in the thousands of pieces of mail he has received over the past few weeks from all over the world.

"I read 400 letters the other day and every one of them was from someone who had been sexually abused," Kennedy said. "They came from Florida, Canada, England. It made me sad to realize that so many people had gone through what I did."

Kennedy's agent Tom Laidlaw worries that his client and good friend will feel too deeply, care too much.

"We have to be careful," Laidlaw said. "He can't feel like he has to save the world."

It's enough that he saved himself. Kennedy hasn't felt comfortable in his own skin for more than a decade, since the night in his 15th year when James first assaulted Kennedy at gunpoint in a darkened hotel room during a midget tournament. The Manitoba native would grow up and move on the the NHL, to Detroit, Winnipeg, Calgary and this past August, to Boston. But the secret he carried with him of having been violated by James hundreds of times over a six-year period packed considerable emotional baggage.

"I'd walk into a hotel and I'd feel so uncomfortable, like everyone was watching me. I always felt like people were looking at me and thinking I was a bad guy," Kennedy said. "I had no self-esteem."

Panthers forward Ray Sheppard was a teammate of Kennedy in Detroit for three years and remembered him being a blur of misplaced motion, not unlike a dog chasing his tail. Kennedy laughed at the analogy and shook his head in agreement.

"That's called running," Kennedy said. "You don't want to get close to people because there's so much stuff you're keeping inside of you that you don't want people to find out."

Kennedy took solace in alcohol and drugs. He has been convicted twice of driving while impaired and once for possession of marijauna. "I remember people always used to say of me, 'He's a nice guy, but he's always into trouble,'" Kennedy said. "I never intentionally went out and said I was going to get into trouble, but it always seemed to find me. It was like I had to prove that I was the bad person I believed I was."

The guy once labeled as a misfit and a troublemaker found out earlier this week that the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper has named him the most influential person in sports in Canada in its annual Top-25 rankings. "Yeah," Kennedy said, wide-eyed. "Can you believe it?"

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