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The 1997 Archives: Sheldon Comes Forward

1997....the healing process for Sheldon began in this year. 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!!!

To the left are the archives for 1997.

Page 3

Kennedy Finally gets Abuse off his Mind

Comment on Don Cherry

Kennedy Told Page About Abuse

Cherry Earns Rave Reviews for On-Air Tirade

Kennedy's Wife Proud he Came Forward

Ugly Secrets too Painful to Admit

Kennedy Focuses on Emotional Recovery

Behind The Scenes: Kennedy Made A Big Impact in Canada

Bruins Winger Goes Public With Scandal

Sports News - Names In The Game

Sheldon Kennedy Comes Forward: Graham James' Conviction on Sexual Abuse Charges Rocks Canadian Junior Hockey

Police Widen Sexual Assault Probe

Abuse Stories Haunt Coaches

Hockey's Dirty Secret

Kennedy Finally Gets Abuse Off Of His Mind
Jim Kelley
Sports Server NHL columnist

Graham James was one of Canada's most honored junior hockey coaches until he was sentenced recently to 3 1/2 years in prison for sexual abuse of at least two players.

One of them, Sheldon Kennedy, went public with what happened. It was Kennedy and one player who chose to remain anonymous that caused the indictments to be returned against Graham. The incidents took place over a 10-year span and included a time when Graham was coach of the Swift Current Broncos and earned honors as Inside Hockey Magazine's Man of the Year and won the Memorial Cup, Canada's junior hockey championship.

"I was put in this position for a reason," Kennedy said. "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 people who are in these situations can feel more at ease, feel better about themselves."

Kennedy said James actually treated him, "Like I was his wife," saying after the 1986 bus accident in which four Swift Current players were killed, "If I lost you, I wouldn't be able to go on."

Kennedy estimated James abused dozens of his players, but said he felt he couldn't say anything, because it might damage his hopes of a hockey career.

Kennedy charged he was abused more than 300 times by Graham dating back to the time he first joined the Swift Current Broncos at age 14. On one occasion, Graham was said to have pointed a shotgun at Kennedy.

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

"I'm looking at a situation in which I can get back into the rhythm of hockey, preparing for games and winning, I've won every championship you can win except the Stanley Cup. Now I hope I can win that."

Hockey can be a cruel sport and not just in the way the game is played. However, many players came to Kennedy's defense and said there is a line that can not be crossed.

"Sheldon did something for himself; he did something for his wife and daughter; and he did something for a lot of other people in hockey," said former teammate Steve Chiasson. "A lot of other people called Sheldon selfish before for all the things that he did, but what he did here is probably one of the most unselfish things he could do. Sure it's going to help him, but it'll help a lot of other people as well.

"As human beings, we have to respect what he (Kennedy) did. If he gets catcalls or whatever, I'll feel sorry for the person that's doing it. Because its pretty low."

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Comment On Don Cherry

I have to give it to Don Cherry, he said what needed to be said...and I'm actually glad he swore on air, it was a welcome change to CBC's somber atmosphere. I agree with his comments that 3 1/2 years isn't nearly enough for Graham James, he should have got a lot more for all the pain he caused players such as Sheldon Kennedy and many more.

Cherry said in the Vancouver Province, "I take nothing back. I meant what I said on Coach's Corner. Sometimes you gotta do what you have to do and let the chips fall where they may. You have to be prepared to pay the consequences"

If you reading this don't know what I'm talking about, it basically comes down to Cherry getting mad at Ron MacLean and saying that "it's bullshit" that he's only getting 3 1/2 years, and that if he could get his hands on that "son of a bitch" he'd take care of him personally.

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Kennedy Told Page About Abuse
(c) 1997 The Calgary Herald
By Mike Board
Southam Newspapers

CALGARY - Calgary Flames head coach Pierre Page said player Sheldon Kennedy told him last April that he had been sexually abused.

But Page denied Sunday that he knew the abuser was Graham James, then coach of the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.

Kennedy and Page met in Kennedy's Edmonton hotel room on the morning of April 8, 1996, the day the Flames were scheduled to play in the capital.

Kennedy missed the morning team meeting.

Page said: "We knew something was wrong. We phoned his room and he said he wasn't in very good shape. I said: 'Do you want to talk?' and he said 'yeah.'"

That's when Kennedy told Page he had been sexually abused.

"We started talking and he said he was out all night with the boys and 'I don't feel too good. I talked to my wife and I'm a real mess and it all stems from sexual abuse,' " said Page.

That set off alarm bells in Page's head.

"You just say 'Whoa.' I said 'Sheldon you can tell me your whole story or you can just tell me you need help and I'll get you help.' "

At that point, said Page, Kennedy told him he needed help.

"That's all he told me," said Page. "Sexual abuse. Nothing else. That's it."

Kennedy maintains that he told Page the molester was James.

When asked if he knew it was James that had assaulted Kennedy, Page said: "No."

The coach then spoke with general manager Al Coates who made arrangements for Kennedy to return to Calgary to see team doctors.

Kennedy arrived and was met by Flames doctor Willem Meeuwisse, who had Kennedy see Dr. Brian Gorman, a stress-management expert.

"I went to see him twice, went back and played and nothing was mentioned of it again until I went to the players," said Kennedy.

In a Chicago hotel room on April 17 during the playoffs he told a group of Flames about his sexual abuse by James. James has since pleaded guilty to the charge.

Kennedy said Gorman tried hypnosis on him. But he was not hypnotized. "I couldn't get relaxed enough."

When asked if the hypnosis was a way to help him forget his problems and play hockey, Kennedy said: "No. They just wanted to relax me and calm me down. They never even talked about the Graham thing. They talked about scoring goals. That's the least of my worries."

Gorman, who is listed in the white pages as a stress-disorder specialist, refused comment.

Page said: "To this day, I still don't know who the expert is because it was kept very confidential as to who he was dealing with and whatever. We never got feedback from then on."

Kennedy returned to the team just before the playoffs against Chicago. Page said the team did not rush Kennedy, who rejoined the team seven days after his meeting with Page, back to action.

"We did the right thing . . . I said we don't mind if he doesn't play. That was not a factor. Just solve his problems, I don't care how much it costs, that's what I said," said Page.

He received assurances from the team doctors that Kennedy was well enough to play.

"Generally speaking, without implying anything specific, the decision to come back to play is always done with the player when: No. 1, when they're medically fit; and No. 2, when they are psychologically ready. That's standard policy for someone with any kind of injury," said Meeuwisse.

"I'd like to add that one of the great things about the Calgary Flames is that they've always had the concern of the player, first and foremost, not the team. This situation was no different than any other situation," said Meeuwisse.

However, Kennedy expressed some disappointment in the Flames.

"I was hurt more than anything because it took a lot of effort for me to get to the point where I could tell them," said Kennedy.

Page and Coates, however, maintain they acted properly in getting Kennedy medical help.

"We had a player that obviously needed some professional medical assistance," said Coates, adding he was unaware of the specifics.

"I didn't know. I knew he had a problem of some kind. When I got the call at the office - I wasn't in Edmonton - I said: `Under the circumstances, let's get him home.' I called the doctors. I put him in the doctor's care. None of us are professionals."

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Cherry Earns Rave Reviews for On-Air Tirade
By Kevin Mitchell for The Star-Phoenix

Hockey commentator Don Cherry is garnering rave reviews after launching an on-air tirade Saturday night at coach and convicted sex offender Graham James.

An emotional Cherry called James a "creep" and said "if I had been the judge, I'd have drawn and quartered the son of a bitch."

Cherry's explosion created activity - most of it congratulatory - on the CBC's Internet e-mail system.

One person suggested that he run for prime minister.

"Unbelievably positive," John Shannon, the executive producer for Hockey Night In Canada, said Monday from Toronto. "Ninety to 95 per cent of the correspondence was positive. It was unbelievable. But not surprising.

"Don is one of the very few men who can and would take a public stand on such an issue."

Cherry's fiery comments came after James was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for sexually abusing two teenagers who played for him while with the Swift Current Broncos.

Cherry swore twice during the live Coach's Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

Those blurted eruptions drew plenty of notice - but, says Shannon, little complaint.

"We got three calls from mothers saying they wished he hadn't sworn," Shannon said. "But I don't think anybody will ever question the message. Some might question the method in which he created the message, but that's the price of live television."

Shannon says he didn't squirm - or pace - when Cherry launched his blast at James. The executive producer is used to watching Cherry make headline-grabbing stands on a variety of issues.

"Our deal with Don Cherry is that we'll worry about six hours and he'll worry about five minutes," Shannon said. "My view of what Don does is very similar to what the lead columnist at your paper would do. We'll help him; we'll advise. But it's Don Cherry's name and Don Cherry's reputation at stake in Coach's Corner, and we have to respect that."

Meanwhile, CBC's Saskatoon offices haven't exactly been blitzed with callers. Denise Zanyk, who works in reception and communications at the local office, said two people called -both seeking Cherry's e-mail address.

"I just told them that he doesn't really have an office there as much as he commutes," she remarked.

Ron MacLean, Cherry's sidekick, didn't return calls Monday asking for an interview. MacLean was inundated with phone messages from media outlets.

He drew Cherry's ire when he mentioned that James' actions were "mistakes," and he got an angry "bullshit!" from Cherry when he mentioned that the 3 1/2 year sentence may have reflected James' willingness to plead guilty and avoid an ugly trial.

Cherry's expletives would have been censored if the show was taped.

"But, of course, these things go live," Zanyk said. "Especially with Don Cherry. He's live, all right."

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Kennedy's Wife Proud He Came Forward
(c) 1997 The Calgary Herald
By Mike Board
Southam Newspapers

CALGARY - After keeping his sexual victimization secret for years, Sheldon Kennedy finally told someone - his wife Jana.

And she confronted Graham James in a telephone conversation last spring.

James, the former head coach of the Swift Current Broncos, was convicted on Thursday of two counts of sexual assault for more than 350 attacks on two of his former Bronco players. That included approximately 300 attacks on Kennedy over a period of six years, from 1984 through '89, court heard last week.

"He (James) called to find out why Sheldon hadn't played and what was going on," said Jana. "I had known for almost a year at that point, and I had never said anything to him because I was trying to respect Sheldon's space. I just basically said, `Do you want to get into this with me right now, Graham?' and right there he knew. And he just started to backpedal, and tried to justify his actions. He tried to keep me on the phone for a really long time, just justifying.

"I just finally said, 'Graham, there is no justification. He was a child and you're an adult and you abused your power and your trust and I have nothing else to say to you,' " continued Jana.

James told the court "I offer no excuses. I blame nobody but myself. I preached selflessness but I was selfish."

Jana said the abuse of her husband came as a shock to her as a young bride.

"Obviously when I married him I thought he was a really great person and had a lot of great qualities," said the Calgary native, who married Kennedy in the spring of 1995. "But to be honest with you, I didn't know about all this when I married him and I found out shortly after. And as the year went on I was completely amazed and I am to this day completely proud of him."

Jana has been at Sheldon's side, supporting him since he decided last spring to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against his former hockey coach.

Kennedy met his wife while playing for the Flames.

"People talk about how courageous it is and everything, but I was there through every day and the ups and downs, and there were so many times where it would have been easy to quit. He didn't," said Jana.

"The biggest crime I see that Graham committed is, he stole Sheldon's youth and he stole from Sheldon his trust and his confidence in adults and that will take years and years to completely get back," said Jana.

"When I first found out I was really angry and I wanted to tell the world what an animal this man was. And it took a long time before Sheldon was ready and I didn't know if he was ever going to be ready, but it happened all the right way at the right time."

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Ugly Secrets Too Painful to Admit
--Confession is a stepping stone to grace--

After years of keeping a dirty secret to himself, 27-year-old hockey player Sheldon Kennedy could no longer contain the mental anguish and shameful feelings that were planted at the tender age of 14 when his coach began approaching him for sexual favors. He broke his silence, and earlier this month a Calgary court heard that Kennedy had been abused by his former coach, Graham James, more than 300 times between 1984 and 1990. James was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.

To date, Kennedy is the only one of James's victims to shed the veil of anonymity and speak openly about the pain that has so haunted and stigmatized him. He decided to come forward after telling his wife about what had been troubling him for years. But it was the thought that his young daughter might some day suffer the same abuse that clinched his decision. "When my daughter was born, and I thought if anything ever happened to her in the future like what happened to me and I never did anything about [James], I'd feel pretty bad about it. I'd feel like I should have done something. It's [awful] trying to deal with what's messing up your head. You're just mentally screwed up, and it takes a while before you can get back to where you can trust and can feel."

Shocking as it is, the hockey world was ripe for a revelation of this sort. Junior hockey is the realm of talented players in their mid- to late-teens who often move away from their home towns and live under the oversight of their coaches. These players aspire to careers in the National Hockey League, and their coaches have an enormous influence on whether they make it there or not. It's a recipe for disaster.

--Tip of the iceberg--

Indeed, now that Kennedy has come forward reporters have unearthed a bevy of other disturbing reports suggesting that his situation is just the tip of the iceberg.

According to The Globe and Mail, "the highest-ranking executive in the Western Hockey League sexually harassed and abused players but was never censured or investigated by the league. Brian Shaw, who died of AIDS-related cancer in 1993, was not only the owner of Oregon's Portland Winter Hawks but also chairman [for 12 years] of the league's board of governors." That young boys were allowed to become the sexual prey of authority figures in the sport was a reality that virtually everyone involved chose to overlook, an ugly secret the culture of hockey could not admit.

Hockey is not alone in this regard. The world of sport more generally is bracing itself for a dose of the same medicine. A federally financed report published last summer found 80 percent of national-team athletes who responded to a questionnaire were aware of a case of sexual abuse or harassment on their team. One-fifth of the respondents said they'd had sexual intercourse with a coach or authority figure in their sport.

According to sports psychologist Sue Wilson of York University in Toronto, exposure of this dark side of competitive sport has been held back by denial that something as wholesome as sport can harbor sexual predators.

--In the church--

The current flurry of publicity and the angst and soul-searching in the corridors of sport are an eerie reminder of the trauma endured by religious institutions in recent years. Churches too have been painfully learning that the immoral activities of people in positions of trust and authority can undermine the credibility of entire organizations. They too have been put under intense scrutiny and faced the wrath of an angry public--angry because their trust has been misplaced.

And, sadly, too often denial has been the first response of those in a position to know that scandalous activities are taking place. Who wants to destroy the reputation of a good institution by insisting that uncomfortable matters be dealt with openly and honestly? And to the faithful--sports fans and religious believers alike--whose own experience has been positive and pure, it's simply hard to believe that such things may be true.

But Sheldon Kennedy, the boys of Mount Cashel and numerous other victims are crying out that awful acts do occur in places where trust has been implicit.

--Purging the predators--

The good news is that we are still shocked when revelations of this sort occur. I pray that we do not become hardened to the cries of these victims as we learn of more instances of abuse in the weeks, months and years to come. Certainly we will be hearing from the world of sport, and I don't for a minute believe that the church has been purged of its predators just yet. People we trust with our children may seek to use them for unholy purposes; institutions we entrust with our money and prayers may choose to cover up the transgressions rather than deal with them openly and honestly.

These perverse actions will not just be committed by frustrated celibates or televangelists, but by preachers in Christian churches, teachers in Christian schools, and missionaries in countries around the world. And congregations, denominations and mission agencies will be tempted to deal covertly and incompletely with the issues, so as not to sully their own good reputations.

That will be sad, for the true church knows that confession and repentance are stepping stones to grace, the pathway to forgiveness and healing. The true church knows that our ability to maintain positive public relations is less important to God than our ability to deal redemptively with sin and its aftermath.

Sheldon Kennedy did a good thing when he ripped the cover off hockey's dirty little secret. But he tore a strip off his own soul as well. Not only will he continue to bear the trauma of abuse, but now he must also carry the burden of his confession. I pray that he will find a deep and abiding spiritual healing to help him overcome the sorrow in his soul. I pray that his willingness to face the public will mean that others may be spared his horrible experience.

Beyond that, I pray that Christians would take courage from his example and demonstrate the kind of faith that is not afraid "to be laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13), the God who longs to forgive.

Doug Koop

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Kennedy Focuses on Emotional Recovery
By Rick Westhead, Bloomberg News

TORONTO -- Sheldon Kennedy's limp is growing less noticeable. Doctors plan to remove the pins from his shattered left leg soon.

The former National Hockey League right wing's other scars are slower to heal.

Kennedy, out of the NHL since he flipped an all-terrain vehicle in June, triggered an investigation into youth hockey in Canada when he said he'd been sexually abused by his former junior hockey coach Graham James about 300 times over a six-year period from 1984-90. James now is serving a 31/2-year sentence for abusing Kennedy and another player.

"I'm not worried with hockey right now," Kennedy said. "I'm just trying to figure out who I am. Just because I told my story doesn't mean everything is done with."

In the meantime, he has set up the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation, with the goal of helping others who have been sexually abused. He's setting up a Canadawide tour to talk to schools and youth hockey teams and is organizing a festival for his British Columbia ranch for 10,000 abused children.

Kennedy, 28, plans to skate for the first time since the accident soon, and said he'll return to professional hockey next year at the earliest.

"I might play again but I'm not mentally ready to play," Kennedy said. "It could happen. My dream was always to play in the National Hockey League. I reached that goal but it didn't make my pain go away."

Kennedy was released by the Boston Bruins shortly after the accident in June. In 310 career NHL games with the Bruins, Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings, he has 49 goals and 58 assists.

Tom Laidlaw, his agent, said some NHL teams have interest in Kennedy.

"We've already had three or four clubs call to find out Sheldon's status," Laidlaw said. "Physically and mentally, Sheldon thought it was better to wait until next year before worrying about professional hockey again."

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Behind The Scenes: Kennedy Made a Big Impact in Canada
Associated Press
Ex-Red Wing Sheldon kennedy topped a list of 25 sports figures who made a difference in the way Canadians live.
Vartan Kupelian and Mike O'Hara

Sheldon Kennedy's story of sexual abuse continues to make headlines in Canada, and at least one person close to Kennedy believes there won't be closure any time soon.

In a recently published list - "25 (sports) people who made a difference" in the way Canadians live - the Toronto Globe and Mail includes movers and shakers such as Paul Beeston, owner of the Toronto Blue Jays; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman; NFL boss Paul Tagliabue; federal official Sheila Copps, who controls the national sports budget; NHL Players Association chief Bob Goodenow and even Don Cherry.

But No. 1 on the list of the most powerful and influential people is Kennedy, a journeyman who began his NHL career with the Red Wings and now plays with the Boston Bruins. It was Kennedy who told a story of abuse as a hockey player growing up in Canada which resulted in Graham James, a junior coach, being imprisoned for abusing Kennedy and others who have not been identified publicly.

The newspaper said Kennedy "for the most unfortunate of reasons ... has influenced the way we view development in our national game -- and how vigilant parents must be."

Kennedy's reaction to the story and his rising prominence?

"He got a good chuckle out of it when I told him," said Tom Laidlaw, the player's Detroit-based agent. "He is very proud of it. It was a very difficult thing for him to do, a lot of it is still hard for him to understand, but he knows what he did is making a difference."

Laidlaw believes there are too many issues left unanswered for the story to disappear.

"Like who knew about it, and why wasn't it stopped years and years ago," he said. "There are other kids out there who have been abused by (James) and others. Already some changes are being made in the way Canadians, in particular, look at their sports and the kids involved in it.

"Everybody was saying how brave Sheldon was, but he couldn't see that. How does he benefit from this? Sheldon has no self-esteem. He was painted as a bad kid, a wild kid, with an alcohol problem and his career wasn't going where it was supposed to go.

"Now everybody understands. He's not just sitting around. He's stepping up and doing things, helping others. It makes him feel like he's worth something, and that all these things people were saying about him are not true. He's a tremendous young man, and now people are looking at him as a hero."

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Bruins Winger Goes Public With Scandal

In a courageous move, Boston Bruins winger Sheldon Kennedy, 27, recently went public with the revelation that he was a victim of sexual abuse and molestation by his former junior hockey coach, Graham James, while playing for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League. Over a period of seven years, Kennedy was assaulted more than 300 times by James. Last week in Calgary, James pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual abuse and was sentenced to three years in jail.

Kennedy willingly decided to go public despite a court-order that would have allowed his identity to remain unknown. "I just feel there are doors opening for me to take this thing and try to help and make this a huge issue," Kennedy said. "It was very lonely, and I was very scared to tell people how I felt because they would not believe me. I want people to know they can tell somebody because there are people out there who understand where you're coming from."

A source close to the police investigation told the Calgary Herald that some players who may have also been attacked by James were advised by their agents and lawyers not to step forward because it would ruin their careers and harm the NHL. James also coached such NHL players as Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic, Theo Fleury of the Calgary Flames, Geoff Sanderson of the Hartford Whalers and Dean McAmmond of the Edmonton Oilers.

Kennedy, who had a career-high 19 goals for Detroit in 1992-93 and spent the past two seasons with Calgary before being picked up by the Bruins this summer, was given leave by the Bruins so he could attend James's trial. Kennedy's ordeal began when he met James at a hockey school at the age of 14 in 1982. James arranged to have Kennedy's rights traded to his team in Winnipeg and invited the youth for a visit. The first time he was assaulted was while he slept on a cot in James's bedroom. The bedroom windows were taped shut. At one point, James also waved a shotgun, the court was told in a joint statement by prosecution and defence lawyers.

Kennedy said he didn't know what to do. "You tell your mom and she makes you come home. You tell your friends and they portray you as a gay guy," he said. The abuse continued after James joined the Swift Current Broncos in 1984, until Kennedy left in 1989 after being selected in the NHL draft.

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 a national title in 1989. His conviction was front-page news across Canada and provoked demands for tighter screening of coaches, whose influence over young players is often powerful.

James told ESPN on the first day of his jail term that he'd still like to be friends with Kennedy.

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Sports News Names In The Game

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) - Sheldon Kennedy was recuperating Wednesday from a nasty cut and a badly broken hip - the latter the result of a recreational accident and the former an unexpected blow from his NHL team.

The Calgary Sun says the Boston Bruins have effectively released Kennedy from the team by sending out a letter of intent to the right-winger's agent, Tom Laidlaw, that they would not be issuing him a qualifying offer.

It is believed the Bruins' acquisition of Mike Sullivan from the Calgary Flames at last weekend's NHL draft made Kennedy expendable.

The ex-Flame made headlines around North America last year for his courage in admitting he was a victim of sexual abuse by former junior hockey coach Graham James.

Kennedy was injured Monday when he flipped an all-terrain vehicle he was driving on an abandoned rail line.

He had four hours of surgery on Wednesday to have a pin put in his upper leg, and was listed in stable condition.

Kennedy stunned hockey circles with revelations of sexual abuse by James when both were with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League.

In January, James was sentenced to 3 1/2 years after pleading guilty in Calgary court to assaulting Kennedy and another player whose name has never been made public.

Kennedy has appeared on talk shows across North America to shed light on the issue of sexual abuse and has set up a foundation that is now establishing a ranch in British Columbia for sexually abused youngsters. He is also close to signing a movie deal.

``We know he's doing OK, but what we don't know is the extent of the injury,'' said Chris Brown, the foundation's executive director.

Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Sheldon Kennedy Comes Forward: Graham James' Conviction
On Sexual Abuse Charges Rocks Canadian Junior Hockey

The Graham James case struck Canada like a sledgehammer, forever crushing perceptions of junior hockey coaches, changing how the country's junior programs went about their business, and, perhaps saddest of all, forcing people to stop trusting. How many other coaches have physically and mentally abused their players? Are any 14- and 15- year-old boys being abused by their host parents? Are we wrong to send our children away from home at such an early age?

The period of introspection will be long and painful for Canadians, who were sickened, saddened and stunned by the revelations in the case: James, 43, who coached in Calgary, Moose Jaw and Swift Current, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two of his former players. For his crime, James was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.

The charges were brought against James in November by Sheldon Kennedy, the 27-year-old Boston Bruins right wing who had played three years for James in the late 1980's. Kennedy claimed that James had sexually molested him more than 300 times in six years, and that the abuse had continued even after Kennedy had left juniors.

The conviction, which was front page news across Canada, became an international story when Kennedy went public with his story.

"This is the hardest bloody thing I have ever had to work and deal with in my life," Kennedy said in an interview published by the Toronto Star, Calgary Herald and USA Today. "I just feel like there are doors opening for me to take this thing and try to help and make this a huge issue. I feel like I am 10 months old inside a 27-year-old body. You are learning to live again. You are learning to have friends. You have to learn to love and relax. I can't remember the last time I relaxed totally."

Kennedy, who at first feared his revelations would turn him into an outcast, was overwhelmed by support from the hockey community. When the Bruins played in Calgary for the first time after he came forward, many fans stood and cheered when Kennedy's name was announced in Boston's starting lineup.

But despite the support for Kennedy, other abuse victims have been hesitant to step forward. The other victim in the James case never revealed himself, although there was wide speculation that it was either Theo Fleury, a longtime friend of Kennedy, or Joe Sakic, who spent two seasons in Swift Current. Sakic said he wasn't the other "high-profile NHL player" said to be abused by James. Fleury said he might one day be willing to comment on the situation.

"It's a real tough situation to deal with," Fleury said. "Maybe it's good it has come out the way it has."


Kennedy's story inspired reactions of outrage and demands for revenge. Don Cherry, the CBC commentator known for his outrageous remarks, was probably speaking for most of Canada when he said of James' sentence: "If I had been the judge, I'd have drawn and quartered the (SOB). I remember when I was a 14-year-old in junior just like these kids were. It was like being a baby among men."

There was an introspection and calls for an investigation into all of Canadian junior hockey. Said Ben Weibe, chairman of the Swift Current Broncos: "It's a black day for the whole hockey world. Hockey is going to have to take a close look at itself."

But the most emotional stories came from those who were touched personally by Kennedy's ordeal. Said his wife, Jana: "The biggest crime that James committed was that he stole Sheldon's youth. He stole from Sheldon his trust and his confidence in adults, and that will take years to overcome."

Kennedy plans to spend the rest of his life giving back and getting back, for himself and for others, what James stole. By going public, Kennedy has helped other abuse victims feel better about themselves and they realize they weren't the only ones. The Boston Bruins set up a "Sheldon Support" page on the World Wide Web [cmjmusic.com/Bbruins/sheldonsupport.html] that inspired numerous letters from supporters, Bruins fans and abuse victims, such as this one:

Dear Sheldon,
My name is Georgia T. I turned 18 yesterday, April 2.
...I read and had heard a little about your situation. When I finally put two and two together I decided to write and tell a little bit about what happened to me.
I had been sexually abused in two different forms by four different people in three situations, each quite a time span apart. The first when I was two to three years old, the second when I was 14-15 years old, and the third when I was 16 up until a little bit after I turned 18. The third situation probably was what has had the most effect because I was finally old enough to understand what had been happening to me. I blame myself in more ways than I would like to for the third time period. I will many times be sitting in the car or in bed and wake up or sit up with such an overpowering fear.
I gradually am beginning to accept facts with the help of therapy. I will be in foster care until I turn 19, which suits me fine. I think what has affected me the most is knowing that my own parents, the very people I trusted the most in the whole wide world, had abused me the third time and lied to me about a few other things.
So, this is my story. Short, not very detailed. I am glad people have the courage to eventually speak up before it is too late. Thanks for being one of those inspiring people!

Sincerely, Georgia T., 18


The Sheldon Kennedy Foundation was established in February to raise money for abused children. Plans are to build a retreat for abused children in Fernie, British Columbia, or elsewhere. To make a donation to the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation, call 1-800-692-6690 from the USA or Canada, 204-784-3760 in Winnipeg, or write: The Sheldon Kennedy Foundation, Box 191 STN, Winnipeg, MB Canada, R3H 0Z5

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Police Widen Sexual Assault Probe

TORONTO - After the recent conviction of Graham James, the Canadian junior hockey coach, for sexually assaulting teenage players, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Wednesday that they have widened their investigation to include players living in the US.

He would not give the number of players involved, but Cpl. Rick Newstead confirmed that the Mounted Police are in the process of contacting "at least two" and fewer than 10" of James' former players with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos. Newstead said the players involved include Americans and Canadians.

James, 43, was sentenced last Thursday to 3 1/2 years in prison with 10 years of probation for crimes committed between 1984 and 1994, when he coached the Broncos.

Since James' conviction, Sheldon Kennedy, now with the NHL's Boston Bruins, has said he was assaulted by James more than 350 times. The name of another current NHL player, who also testified against James, remains under a court-ordered publication ban.

"This is the hardest, bloodiest thing I've ever had to work and deal with in my life, and it will be the hardest thing I will ever have to do," Kenendy told The Toronto Star after James' conviction. "But I just feel that the position I am in, having this happen to me, I feel there are doors opening for me to take this thing and try to help and make this a huge issue. It is a scary thing in the sports world: He is the door you have to get through to get to your dreams, unless you run into it, unless you do something about it and talk about it. But it is so hard. I feel like I am 10 months old inside a 27-year-old body. You are learning to live again. You are learning to have friends, and you have to learn to love and relax. I can't remember the last day I relaxed totally."

Newstead said not to expect immediate results from the broader investigation.

"A lot of these players won't admit they were victimized until they are down on their luck," Newstead said, adding that the police force could be looking at as many as 25 players in both Canada and the US. "You have to realize that these players are like alcoholics. Some of their problems won't surface for years down the road."

James' conviction is the latest in several recent cases of sexual misconduct by Canadian amateur hockey coaches. There is evidence that these activities are not limited to Canada's national game. In July 1995, a survey by Sport Canada, which governs amateur sports, revealed that 20% of the athletes who responded from various national teams said they had been sexually involved with their coaches. Nearly 10% said they had experienced forced sexual intercourse, and some of the respondents were younger than 16 when the act occurred.

Joe Sakic, all-star center for the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, played for James for three seasons in Swift Current. In 1994, Sakic was part of a group that hired James as coach of the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, one of the three premier junior leagues in Canada.

"We had no idea this all was going on," Sakic said last week. "Nobody knew. It's not something you disclose, I guess."

CHA President Murray Costello said Canada's hockey organizers are faced with trying to prevent a repeat of the James case. Costello said the CHA will look at implimenting coaching screening programs at its semiannual board meeting in several weeks.

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Abuse Stories Haunt Coaches
The Record
By Steve Cannon Record staff

They lined the rink during the pre-game skate Thursday, young girls in baggy hockey sweaters and in obvious awe at being so close to the world's best women players."There's Wickenheiser, she's awesome," one pony-tailed fan screamed to her friends as she spotted Team Canada star Hayley Wickenheiser at the Kitchener Auditorium.

With such adulation, is it any wonder minor hockey groups expect the Women's World Hockey Championship to give birth to a new generation of female players?

Registration in Kitchener alone is expected to double to more than 400.
But with such growth comes questions, like who best should be coaching young girls? Should only women stand behind the bench or in the dressing room?

Not in the opinion of Julie Anderberhan, coach of the Cornell
University women's hockey team and a former player with Team U.S.A.
"Hockey is hockey," Anderberhan told a group of coaches at a Thursday seminar entitled Issues for the Competitive Female Player.

"Men play it. Women play it, and you don't have to coach differently. Whether you use the proverbial carrot or the stick depends more on the individual than whether they are a male or female."

Yet, in Canada, the question of who should coach our children is asked for reasons other than coaching ability.

Graham James made sure of that last year, when it came to light he had sexually assaulted one of his players more than 300 times when he coached the Swift Current Broncos.

James is currently serving a 31Z2-year stint in jail for abusing
Sheldon Kennedy, who was 14 at the time of the first assault and is now stitching his life and career back together with the Boston Bruins.
But the legacy of James's crimes has been the scrutiny of all minor coaches, who now endure sideways glances from parents who once blindly handed their children over to the team.

These are the same parents who were also shocked when a Sports Canada study revealed nearly 22 per cent of Canada's elite athletes admitted having sex with someone in authority.

Of those, 8.6 per cent said they were forced into the activity. One in five said they were under 16 at the time.

No wonder the microscope is being trained on men who coach young boys.

But how tough must it be for men who coach young girls?
"After what happened (to Kennedy), I became more cognizant of any kind of actions that may be taken the wrong way," said Ker Ferguson, who coaches teenaged girls in London.

"I became much more sensitive to it than I ever had been before. Men should still coach girls. You just have to have the proper decorum in and around the dressing room. It's just common sense."

As it is when the roles are reversed and women coach boys, as Laura Urquhart has done in England.

Urquhart, who is co-coach of England's national women's team, said it's essential to get the right people to guide young athletes.
"Back home, we don't have many women coaches yet so we have the concerns of men going into the changing rooms of our girls," said Urquhart, in Kitchener as England's delegate to the worlds.

"It's a big issue, really. I know when I've coached the boys teams, I've made it a policy of not going into the change room until the boys are completely dressed," she said.

"Not only do you have to act properly, you have to be seen doing the right thing. Clearly, you don't want anybody confusing what you're doing."

© Copyright Kitchener-Waterloo Record 1997
Kitchener-Waterloo Record Online
This article came from Southam.

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Hockey's Dirty Secret - (C) 1997 THN

No story captivated and horrified the hockey world more than Sheldon Kennedy's revelation he was sexually assaulted by major junior coach Graham James. It was, unhappily, the story of the season and heads out list of 1996-1997's Top 25 Stories as compiled and written by Season in Review Editor Jason McKay.

By Rick Mayoh

The letter was addressed to Sheldon Kennedy. In it was a medal that had been awarded to a soldier for bravery in the Persian Gulf War.
"He said I deserved it more than he did," Kennedy said.
People inside and outside the hockey world have labeled Kennedy a hero. That wasn't exactly what Kennedy had in mind when he made the shocking disclosure in January that he had been repeatedly sexually abused by his junior coach, but that is what happened.

Before that, Kennedy was a fourth-liner for the Boston Bruins whose career had been marked more by torubles off the ice than accomplishments on it. But Kennedy's attempt to escape his own pain and raise awareness of sexual abuse has placed him in the spotlight and forced those at all levels to confront the issue.

Kennedy's escape from the ordeal formally began last August when he lodged a complaintwith Calgary police, alleging his former junior coach, Graham James, sexually assaulted him about 300 times between 1984 and 1990. James, one of the most successful coaches in Western League history, disputed the facts of the case, but pled guilty to assaulting Kennedy and an unnamed player 350 times while he was their coach with the Swift Current Broncos. James, who resigned as coach and GM of the Calgary Hitmen before the season, was sentenced Jan. 2 to 3 1/2 years in prison.

James was contacted by The Hockey News, but declined to be interviewed.

The players' identities were protected by a court order, but Kennedy stepped forward two days after James was sentenced. Kennedy went public to help the healing process and to bring attention to the issue of sexual abuse.

"Just now I'm starting to realize some of the things that are going on," Kennedy said in an interview with THN in mid-June. "I can start to really understand and work on my issues. The hardest part is to try to explain to people in words what's going on when you can't figure it out yourself. People don't understand, although they want to. But I'm getting better. I have good days and bad."

Kennedy, his wife Jana and agent Tom Laidlaw, have been overwhelmed by the public response since Kennedy came forward. Kennedy said he received 1,000 letters a week initially from all over the world. He has appeared on Oprah, Prime Time Live, Hockey Night In Canada and Good Morning America to tell his story.

He created the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation. Vancouver businessman Steve Funk donated _____ acres of land in southeastern __________, where Kennedy hopes to build a ranch to help abused youths.
"My recovery is about helping kids," Kennedy said, "and I'll be right through that stuff with them."

Former NHL greats Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito are on the foundation's board of directors. It has already received more than $100,000 in donations, including $50,000 from wives of Philadelphia Flyers' players.
Kennedy's saga also spawned a thorough internal investigation of junior hockey and prompted the CHA to implement a screening program for all potential volunteers.

The foundation is also developing a website and has joined forces with Kids Help Phone to help raise funds and provide access to counselling. Kids Help Phone is a 24-hour telephone counselling service that receives more than 3,000 calls a day across Canada on 14 lines. But because of the volume of calls, fewer than half the callers get through on the first attempt.

"The staff is very surprised to notice more boys calling," said supervisor Carolyn Tremblay.

Not all of the calls about sexual abuse were from children, though.
"There were times I'd be in my office in tears," said Laidlaw, an NHL defenseman for 10 years. "You'd get dads calling whose sons were sexually abused and they didn't know what to do. They'd be crying at the other end of the line."

Kennedy, meanwhile, played 56 games this past season with the Bruins, scoring eight goals and 18 points. He earned $250,000, but the Bruins decided June 24 not to pick up the last year of his contract for $400,000. A day earlier, Kennedy broke his left leg just below the hip in an off-road accident near Sylvan Lake, Alta.

Kennedy was riding a Suzuki four-wheel all-terrain vehicle along an abandoned rail-line when it overturned and pinned him. He had embarked on a rigorous off-season conditioning program and was intent on resurrecting a once-promising career. Now a 28-year-old unrestricted free agent with a broken leg, Kennedy's NHL future is uncertain to say the least.

Before the accident, Kenendy said for the first time in his pro career he is driven to be the best player he can be.

"My sense is that he impressed enough with his attitude and his ability that he could contribute somewhere," Laidlaw said before Kennedy's injury.
Kennedy was one of the most electrifying players in junior hockey eight years ago. In 1989, he led the Broncos to the Memorial Cup and enjoyed two 50-goal seasons in Swift Current. The way Kennedy figures, if he could play eight years in the NHL with no physical activity aside from carrying his personal baggage, he can accomplish much more by putting his mind to it.

"I've played eight years and I've never lifted a weight or ridden a bike," he said. "I know I can be a way better player than I've been so far."
Meanwhile, Kennedy is enjoying spending time at home with Jana and their one-year-old daughter, Ryan. He is growing closer to his mother, Shirley, but his relationship with his father, Mel, remains strained.
There are many issues still to be confronted. One of them is alcohol.
"Because of what has happened in the past, it wouldn't be a stretch to say Sheldon has an alcohol problem," Laidlaw said. "But from what I've seen, it's under control."

Kennedy said he is not an alcoholic, that he drank in the past to numb his feelings, not because he craved it.

An agreement has been reached with Baton Broadcasting in Toronto to produce a movie based on Kennedy's life. Kennedy will be a consultant and public service announcements are part of the package.
Asked who he would choose to portray himself, the witty Kennedy said comedian Jim Carrey. "You need fun guys," Kennedy said. "The kids would love him."

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