The 1998 archives are below.
Star Sheldon Kennedy Skates Across Canada for Victims of Sexual Abuse
The hearts of Canadians went out to Sheldon Kennedy when the former NHL hockey player disclosed his junior hockey coach, Graham James, had sexually abused him. The abuser was jailed for three years and his victim established the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation to build a ranch for abused kids in the Kootenays. This summer, in a highly publicized fund raiser, Sheldon Kennedy strapped on a pair of in-line roller skates in Newfoundland and skated 8-thousand kilometers to Victoria collecting funds for his 15-million dollar ranch project. Kennedy's example succeeded in raising awareness about the hazards of sexual abuse in organized minor sports and he encouraged kids to sound the alarm if it happened to them. Sheldon Kennedy was less successful in the fund raising department, finishing his cross-country skate 12-million short of his ultimate financial goal. He raised a total of 2.6-million dollars - about 1.6-million of that in gifts and services, including the land in southeastern BC where the ranch is to be built. After expenses, there's only about 500-thousand dollars in cash left in the bank account of the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation.
The former NHL player obviously believes charity begins at home. It has now been learned that Kennedy was paid a salary of $7,500 a month for his cross country fund raiser which works out to 40-grand for five months of roller skating. For many Canadians, that disclosure tarnishes Sheldon Kennedy's effort. He would have done well to have used Terry Fox and Rick Hansen as role models before organizing and embarking on his cross-country crusade for charity.
I'm Bob Harkins.
**NOTE TO READER OF THIS PAGE: Harkins' comment in NO way reflects the opinion of the webmistress.
CALGARY -- Sheldon Kennedy drew a $7,500 monthly salary from donations to his summer skate across Canada.
It's money the hockey player says he deserved, even though his charity for abused children is far short of its goal.
"I'm not afraid to admit that I got paid," said Kennedy, who blew the whistle on his sexually abusive junior hockey coach, Graham James.
"I think that I worked hard. I worked every day, day in and day out."
Wayne McNeil, president of the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation, said the board of directors voted to pay the former NHL player about $40,000 during the five-month skate.
"To me, if you're out there crusading, you have to get paid," McNeil said. "I don't have a problem with that."
But a Toronto lawyer who specializes in charities says it's "improper" to pay a salary to foundation members.
In fact, the federal government could pull a foundation's charity licence, said Wolfe Goodman. "Unless there's something that I'm missing, it certainly seems to be highly improper."
Any foundation in breach of its charitable registration could be deregistered and become liable for paying income tax on donations, Goodman said. "All sorts of dire things happen in that event."
In Kennedy's case, the government could demand he pay money back to the foundation if he were in breach, Goodman said.
Kennedy, now toiling for the Manitoba Moose of the International Hockey League, skated 8,150 kilometres to raise money for a $15-million ranch for sexually abused children.
There's about $500,000 in the kitty so far.
Former Alberta justice minister Brian Evans, a board member and lawyer for the foundation, was surprised to hear that paying Kennedy a salary could pose problems.
"That's news to
me," Evans said. "If it was true, that would be something that we'd
have to try to find a way around. Obviously, the first thing would be
to try to have the money paid back."
Kennedy turned the hockey world upside down when he disclosed that James sexually abused him hundreds of times during his Western Hockey League career. James got 3 1/2 years in jail and is now on day parole.
Many Canadians consider Kennedy a hero for going public with his dark secret and for his arduous cross-country journey to fight sexual abuse.
Dave Stothart of Cobourg, Ontario, who was a sexually abused child, has raised $4,500 by canvassing for the foundation. He has mixed feelings about Kennedy getting paid.
He still believes Kennedy has done astounding work to bring sexual abuse out of the closet but he isn't so sure about the salary.
"I'm very surprised. I don't think he's hurting for money; he's not like me," said the unemployed 39-year-old man.
Kennedy's mission raised $2.6 million, McNeil said. Of this, about $1.6 million was given in gifts and services, including the land in Radium, B.C., where the ranch is to be built.
After paying staff salaries and expenses, there is less than $500,000 in cash.
It is reasonable for a charitable foundation to hire staff but none of its income should be paid for the personal benefit of any proprietor, member, shareholder or trustee, Goodman said.
Kennedy was the only person on the six-member foundation board who got a salary.
The hockey player said he needed it during his skate to support his wife and daughter. He had spent most of the money he made playing in the National Hockey League.
"I lived a lifestyle that was ugly," said Kennedy, 29, who doesn't hide the fact he supported a drug habit for years.
His hockey career ended after the 1996-97 season, when the Boston Bruins didn't re-sign him after he suffered a broken leg in an all-terrain vehicle crash.
Kennedy suggested other well-known Canadians who did charity marathons likely collected a salary.
"You look at Rick Hanson, you look at Terry Fox, they probably had a company that paid for their salaries or for their wages," he said.
But organizers of the Hanson and Fox marathons said neither man took a penny from the charities.
"There's no way that Terry would have," said Fred Fox, Terry's brother who heads the Terry Fox Foundation in British Columbia. "He wasn't in it for himself or to benefit in any way, even if it was as small as putting food on the table for his family -- I mean, he would never have done that."
Miranda Sharpe, spokeswoman for the Man In Motion Tour, said Hanson was adamant he wouldn't take any money on his two-year wheelchair odyssey around the world.
"Rick was just so committed to his cause, to raise money for spinal chord research, that he made certain that he would not benefit personally," Sharpe said.
Kennedy's foundation is owed thousands of dollars from organizations that waved large bristol-board cheques during the skate, but haven't produced a cashable version, McNeil said.
"It's tough because I've never been in this business before, so I feel uncomfortable with, 'Oh, by the way, you know the $30,000 cheque? Where's the real one?'" said the Calgary businessman.
Although most provincial governments donated $20,000 to $30,000 to the foundation, Kennedy pointed out most of the money came from regular Canadians who gave loonies, toonies and five-dollar bills.
A long time ago in a hockey arena far away, the ice was maintained by a couple of scruffy men in stained ball caps and red-and-black checkered wool jackets. What teeth they had were stained nicotine yellow and as far as anybody knew, the only footwear they owned were rubber boots with the tops folded down. No doubt they had names, but everybody simply called them the "rink rats."
This was the pre-Zamboni era, when flooding was done by hand-pulling a 45-gallon drum full of hot water draining onto a cloth bumper around the ice. In between periods of Senior A hockey games featuring young not-quite-good-enough local guys and paunchy old pros finishing out their careers, the rink rats took centre stage. Heads down, leaning forward, usually with a cigarette wedged in the corner of their mouths, they humped those heavy drums back and forth until the sheet gleamed, white and smooth, ready for the players to return and inscribe the game's destiny in the ice with the cold steel beneath their feet.
The boys who played, practiced and watched hockey in that arena kept their distance from the rink rats. Maybe they were advised to do so by their mothers, who seemed to have a kind of radar for men with malevolence in their hearts. Or maybe the boys sensed the leering grins that occasionally creased those unshaven faces when they were sweeping up the gum wrappers and tape balls on the dressing room floor were an invitation, not to friendship, but to something dark and devious.
Later, when those boys reached puberty, a few of them encountered a coach who, like the rink rats, was unmarried. Unlike them, however, he was intelligent, well-dressed and exuded no hint of menace but for the emotional intensity that sometimes burned in his ice-blue eyes, especially during one-on-one conversations with boys in various stages of pre- or post-game undress.
His charm got him under the mothers' radar and into a couple of the boys' sleeping bags on a summer camping trip. News got around the rink that fall and suddenly the coach disappeared. It would be nice to think that a few of the dads took him out behind the rink and fixed it so he would never have the desire-or equipment-to fiddle with kids again.
The point of all this is that there have always been rats like Graham James lurking around hockey. And there have always been weak, vulnerable kids like Sheldon Kennedy for them to prey on. In an earlier time, when sexual deviancy was accorded the stigmatization it deserves, perverts were simply driven out of the game.
In this enlightened age, as we have learned from the Kennedy-James affair, officialdom has turned a blind eye to homosexual predators. We want to believe that this will change thanks to Mr. Kennedy's decision to publicly accuse his diddler.
But that hope is now fading, for two reasons. First, it is clear that the Kennedy-James story has been hijacked by people who hate hockey. A new book, for example, absurdly contends that Canadian junior hockey is permeated to the core by sexual perversity. The real perversity is that the book's feminist author has used an incident of homosexual predation to indict hockey and the vital role in plays in the socialization of Canadian heterosexual males.
The second reason is Mr. Kennedy himself. His cause may be just, but he is a clumsy crusader at best, who is perilously close to discrediting the cause. Though the last thing he needs is more advice-he's been getting plenty of bad counsel from the people running his charity-we have one more suggestion: Cast off the suffocating cloak of victimhood, concentrate on making the best of the rest of your hockey career, and get out of the snakepit of contemporary sexual politics while you still have a shred of dignity.
-- Paul Bunner
Even though "Kennedy" was originally spelled wrong, the message was an impressive tribute to the 29-year-old former NHL pro who was skating across Canada to raise money for sexually abused children. Mr. Simon was undeterred by the fact that Mr. Kennedy had smacked a guardrail with a loaned Hummer in Edmonton on August 29, abandoned the vehicle, didn't bother to report the accident for 19 hours and later admitted that some marijuana found in the truck was his. "I supported his cause-who wouldn't support that?" says Mr. Simon. "Helping abused kids appealed to me, so my wife and I donated $200 and the staff also took up a collection."
But when Canadian Business magazine printed that Mr. Kennedy was paid tens of thousands of dollars by the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation Inc. for his charity work, Mr. Simon decided he had given the hockey player enough money. "I can see why Sheldon would get some [money], but somehow it loses the spirit of giving if you get paid for it," says Mr. Simon. "I still support the cause, but-like a lot of people-I'm having real doubts about Kennedy himself."
Mr. Kennedy's paycheque was hardly news. The Vancouver Sun had revealed that Mr. Kennedy was getting paid back in October. That story barely caused a ripple; the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation in Calgary received just one complaint after it ran. Mr. Kennedy might have emerged unscathed from the Canadian Business story as well had he not put both his feet in his mouth. When a Canadian Press reporter asked him about the money two weeks ago, Mr. Kennedy tried to justify himself by suggesting that Terry Fox and Rick Hansen-two unimpeachable icons in the eyes of the public-were paid for their marathons. Mr. Kennedy had egg on his face when the Canadian Press checked and found that neither man collected a penny. Since then, Mr. Kennedy has kept away from the press (this magazine included).
How did things get this bad? Mr. Kennedy revealed two years ago that he had been sexually assaulted by former coach Graham James some 300 times when he was a teenage player for the Swift Current Broncos. Just four months ago during his cross-Canada trek, had adoring crowds hanging onto his every word. Calgary businessman Wayne McNeil, who volunteers as president of the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation, says Mr. Kennedy had two strikes against him after the crash in Edmonton. "The Hummer accident, that's when things changed for us," says Mr. McNeil, who says the accident revealed Mr. Kennedy for what he is: a regular joe. "Sheldon is the first to admit that he's always been uncomfortable being regarded as a hero. He's always looked at himself as a regular guy with many problems. He dealt with one of his problems-sexual abuse-and got it off his back, but he's still just a guy."
But Mr. Kennedy's Hummer and salary woes will fade in the public's memory if the $15-million ranch his foundation plans for B.C.'s Kootenay Mountains is a success. The Anaphe Ranch (named after the Greek god said to watch over children) remains a distant dream for Mr. Kennedy, whose cross-country skate raised about $1 million in cash and $1.6 million in donated goods and services. The Sheldon Kennedy Foundation plans to have a test-run this summer at a dude ranch near Calgary which has been donated for the summer and boasts stables, tepees, cabins and fishing.
Mr. McNeil says the foundation is still trying to figure out exactly how the camp should be run. Although Mr. Kennedy originally envisioned it as a rustic retreat where childhood victims of sex abuse could kick back, ride horses and relax, Mr. McNeil says foundation board member Brian Shaw (a psychiatrist with the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto) hopes to go one step further by offering children treatment and therapy at the ranch, plus extensive follow-up. "Sheldon's vision is that kids facing what happened to them can do it better in a low-stress, natural environment rather than a cold, clinical environment," he says. "We haven't yet nailed down exactly how that will happen."
Edmonton chartered psychologist Shirley Vandersteen says the foundation is trying to do something with Anaphe Ranch which has, to her knowledge, never been attempted before. "I can see why Sheldon Kennedy is doing this-so kids can see they're not alone," says Ms. Vandersteen. "But this is not going to be simple. It's a minefield...It's very different than having a ranch for, say, children with cancer. Some of those kids are bald, others have physical scars, others are carrying colostomy bags. They feel shy going to the swimming pool in their neighbourhood, so this is a place where they feel more comfortable. Those kids all share a particular experience in their life, they can talk about how much cancer they've had: this one had a brain tumour, this one has kidney cancer."
But child victims of sex abuse lack that easy bond, says the doctor, because their problems are those of "guilt, shame and conflict...You can be tested for cancer and say that it's gone," she adds. "Psychologically, we don't have that. Sexual abuse is a more fundamental betrayal; a betrayal of trust. It's like damaging a child's soul."
In Ms. Vandersteen's opinion, identifying child sex abuse victims as a unique group and offering them a "safe haven to have fun" is difficult, even dangerous. "This is not like a program where you take disadvantaged to kids to Disneyland and they have a blast for the day," she says. "When you're talking about them staying for a couple of weeks...Children are smart; they talk to each other, they listen to adults talking and they'll know why they are there. These issues are going to come up, and they take a long time to deal with. Once you start an intervention, it has a ripple effect on people's lives and their families. One would like to offer something positive to someone who has been a victim, but you cannot parachute in and out of people's lives."
While Dr. Shaw works out how the ranch will operate, Mr. McNeil is beating the bushes for corporate donors in Calgary and Edmonton. He says the foundation has spent half of the million dollars collected during Mr. Kennedy's skate across Canada. Exactly where the money went won't be known for a couple of months, says Mr. McNeil, until KPMG audits the foundation's books. Some of it went to pay the foundation's two full-time and three part-time employees. Contrary to some media reports, none of it was spent on the Hummer fiasco; Mr. Kennedy paid the $25,000 repair tab and his $115 ticket for failing to report the accident out of his own pocket. "If I smashed my vehicle into a guard-rail, I wouldn't expect my employer to pay for it," says Mr. McNeil, "and neither did Sheldon."
The rest of the now-spent half-million went to Mr. Kennedy's cross-Canada tour. Following him every mile of the way was a partially-donated motor home with five paid foundation staffers (three women and two men) inside: a trainer/nutritionist/equipment manager; a media spokesman; a liaison to handle logistics and police escorts; an accountant handling the donations; and a cashier in charge of selling Mr. Kennedy's "are we there yet?" commemorative T-shirts, necklaces and baseball caps. "Typically the team stayed in hotels, although they did some camping in northern Ontario," says Mr. McNeil. "But a lot of those hotels were comped, part of the goods and services donated. Most of the time we got one room; the guys would sleep in the motor home and the women would sleep in the hotel, or vice versa."
And, of course, $60,000 of that half-million went to Mr. Kennedy. Mr. McNeil says Mr. Kennedy was against the idea of collecting a salary. "Sheldon is the least money-conscious guy I've ever met," says Mr. McNeil. "He never asks anyone for money. He asks that he be listened to and for parents to discuss [sexual abuse] around the kitchen table and make their family environments more open, because that's how you prevent it. It's always implied that there's a foundation and they require money, but it's never stated. He always says to me, 'Wayne, don't worry about the money. The money will come in when people grasp the message.'"
Mr. McNeil says the board proposed the salary in May 1997, when Mr. Kennedy got the idea to skate across Canada; he was still limping from a quad accident which broke his leg and made the Boston Bruins decide not to renew his NHL contract for the following season. "When we asked him if he could afford to take the time to do this [without being paid], he said sure," says Mr. McNeil. "But [Kennedy's wife] Jana manages the finances of the household, and she said he could not afford to continue his work with the foundation had he not been remunerated."
Mr. Kennedy began collecting that salary only when the skate began in May of this year. For the previous year, while he planned his marathon and toured schools and community groups speaking on behalf of the foundation, Mr. Kennedy had supported his wife and their daughter on the last of his savings from the $400,000 a year he had made with the Bruins. During the five-month skate, Mr. Kennedy earned $7,500 a month; the board opted to throw in some extra money to compensate him for the previous year's labours, making his total pay $60,000 for 19 months of work.
Mr. Kennedy, who is a member of the six-man foundation board, was paid as an employee of the foundation. That arrangement "certainly raises a few eyebrows," says Michael Nilsen, a spokesman for the Toronto-based National Society of Fundraising Executives. According to the laws governing registered charities, Mr. Nilsen says "[Mr. Kennedy] will need to have removed himself from any sort of decision regarding [his payment]. In the end, if the board can back up that they got the best deal possible, they recorded everything in the minutes and can prove the board member being paid did not exercise any influence on the decision, there should not be a conflict of interest there."
Mr. Kennedy terminated his contract with the foundation and stopped receiving any money after November 10, when he signed a 25-game contract to play as a right-winger for the Winnipeg-based Manitoba Moose of the International Hockey League (where the average salary falls in the US$60,000 to $70,000 per year range). He has been packing in the crowds ever since. "Sheldon's first game with the Moose was a home game against the Kansas City Blades on November 20, the same night as the Grey Cup Parade," says Winnipeg Free Press sportswriter Ashley Prest. "On an average night the team will draw about 5,000 people, but because of the parade I expected only about 3,000 people that night. About 6,000 people showed up. That's a pretty remarkable turnout and it had to do with Sheldon. He was the big draw, and he scored the winning goal on a power play."
In his first 13 games with the Moose, Mr. Kennedy racked up four goals, four assists and a minus-2 average. He has had to work hard to earn those stats; Ms. Prest says players on opposing teams have been letting Mr. Kennedy know they are unimpressed by his celebrity. "Guys are really trying to make a point by hitting Sheldon," she says. "But when he goes into the corners, he's been coming out on top. He's probably in better physical condition than he's ever been, but his legs aren't quite there yet. He hadn't played in a year and a half before he came here. Is he ready to go back to the NHL? No, not right now. But not no forever."
But even if he never gets back into the NHL, Mr. Kennedy can know that he has changed hockey-and sports-forever. "Since Sheldon came out and said what happened to him, we've had athletes from every kind of sport come to us and say, 'Hey, this happened to me,'" says Karen Smith, executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton. "Hockey, track and field, basketball, baseball, swimming...you name it, they've come forward. And the number of men who come forward has increased dramatically in the last year; a lot of them say Sheldon Kennedy gave them the courage to do it."
Jordan Townsend agrees. "Everyone I play with knows who Sheldon Kennedy is," says the 16-year-old Edmonton-area minor hockey player. "I've talked about him a lot with other players since everything came out. I think he deserved to be paid the money. In health class we heard about sexual abuse, but we never would have discussed it of our own free will except for him. I learned that if something happens to you, no matter how embarrassing, tell someone. If they don't believe you, tell someone else. Someone will listen. I know the drill now, because of Sheldon Kennedy."
-- Davis Sheremata
Hockey Star Sheldon Kennedy Skates Across Canada for Victims of Sexual Abuse
by Thiloma Fernando
This summer Sheldon Kennedy saw Canada the hard way - on foot. Or perhaps we should say, on wheels. For 136 days the former NHL right-winger donned inline skates for an epic trek across the world's second largest country to raise funds to help victims of sexual abuse.
Kennedy made headlines in January of 1997, telling of the sexual abuse he suffered as a teenager at the hands of junior hockey coach Graham James. When Kennedy testified at James' trial, he was 28 and an eight-year NHL veteran who had played for Boston, Calgary and Detroit. That a respected coach like James could molest one of his star players shocked the sports community. James was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail for sexually assaulting two different players hundreds of times over the course of a decade. James was rightly vilified and Kennedy emerged as the face of sexual abuse.
Kennedy has never felt comfortable with the title of hero or role model, but to many Canadians, that's just what he is. Who else would give up more than four months of their life to skate across Canada? Or bare their most personal secret to help others? "I'm just someone who believes in something," says Kennedy.
As much as his revelation helped the cause of abuse victims, Kennedy wants to do more. He started the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation to further public awareness, which led to the cross-country skate. Kennedy, however, is most comfortable talking directly to children and teens. He is vocal in offering advice to those in the situation he was once in. "They really need to remember that it's not their fault." Kennedy says that abuse victims should confide in someone that they trust, "like a guidance counselor, a parent or a friend."
According to Kennedy, kids who have been abused often lose the ability to love and trust. A goal of the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation is "to put that back." One of the Foundation's strategies is to build a retreat for abused children and their families. The Anaphe Ranch is slated to be built in 1999 on donated land near Radium, BC, Canada. The plan is to make the ranch a world class facility in all respects, providing counseling, conducting research, and subsidizing training for professionals who deal with child abuse.
The main purpose of Anaphe Ranch is to heal, says Kennedy, allowing victims to "find friends and get help at a simple level." He believes that just being in the ranch's mountain setting will be therapeutic. "We don't understand the power that nature has," he says. So what exactly will Anaphe Ranch look like? "Like Disneyland!" jokes Kennedy with a wide smile.
To raise funds to build Anaphe Ranch, Kennedy inline-skated across Canada, over 8,000 km. He sometimes skated 100 km a day and needed a new set of wheels every other day. Kennedy says it's been a difficult journey. When I spoke to him, Kennedy was in Salmon Arm, BC - 18 days from completing his trek. He was worn down both physically and mentally. It's difficult baring your soul and talking about the same thing day after day.
Yet it's rewarding because Kennedy knows he is a making a difference to the people he meets. "It's not only the kids. It's the adults. It's the people who don't think that (sexual abuse) happens very often." The public response to the skatehas been a lot better than Kennedy anticipated. "I didn't know if we were going to get kicked off or what - that (sexual abuse) is a touchy subject," he says.
When the skate ended at the Pacific Ocean on October 12, the Foundation was well short of the $15 million dollars needed to build Anaphe Ranch, raising about $2.7 million. Of that figure, about $1.6 million was donated as goods and services. After foundation expenses, there may be as little as $500,000 over left for Anaphe Ranch. Kennedy is upbeat though, treating the trek as a learning experience and vowing to get right back to work raising money.
Kennedy continues to grapple with the abuse he suffered. He retired from professional hockey in 1997 after shattering his leg in an ATV accident and has struggled with the emotional baggage arising from the abuse. "People have a hard time seeing the pain inside - unlike (disabled athletes) Terry Fox or Rick Hansen," he says. Kennedy's struggle became more public in early September when it became known he had crashed a borrowed Hummer, causing $20,000 damage to the vehicle and leaving the scene of the accident. Kennedy admitted to consuming six or seven beers before driving and owning the marijuana found in the vehicle. At a press conference, a tearful Kennedy apologized for the incident and asked for Canadians - especially those who had been abused - to forgive him.
Has there been a difference in the public's attitude towards the foundation since Kennedy's mistake? "For the most part," says Kennedy, "Nothing has changed." The media and public seem to view him as essentially a good guy, trying to do good things.
Now that the skate is over, Kennedy looks forward to spending time with his wife Jana and daughter Ryan. He also plans to play hockey again. On October 26, Kennedy trained with the Canadian national hockey team. "In my eight years of pro," he told the Calgary Herald, "it was never fun for me.
"I'm now looking at hockey through a different set of eyes."
Of course, Kennedy has more media interviews ahead in his quest to see the abuse stop. "We don't need a cure," he says emphatically. "Education is the biggest protection we have."
On Second Thought: Sheldon Kennedy Helping Others With Their Demons
By Roger Dennie
What began some time ago as a voyage of self-discovery, retribution and closure for former NHL hockey player Sheldon Kennedy is turning into a major triumph. On the one hand, it is a personal triumph over the demons that haunt and terrorize all victims of childhood sexual abuse. On the other hand, it is a triumph over the hidden world that the problem of abuse represents.
The money Kennedy is raising on his in-line skate throughout Canada will help him in his efforts to build a retreat for sexually abused children. Perhaps as importantly, the increased awareness he is creating will help countless others who must face the same demons he did.
Kennedy recently passed through Sudbury on his 8,000 kilometre journey across Canada which began in St. Johns, Nfld., May 30 and, with any luck, ends in Vancouver in October. In Sudbury as elsewhere, he was received warmly and continues to reach into our hearts as well as our pocketbooks.
A few days prior to his Sudbury stopover, Kennedy was at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto where he was met by Ken Dryden, president of the Maple Leafs, and several of the players. They showed their support with kind and encouraging words and more importantly with a financial pledge of $20,000.
The significance of this show of support at the Gardens could not have been lost on Kennedy. This is the same Gardens that not so long ago was rocked by a sexual abuse scandal of its own. The story of abuse at the Gardens shocked as much as Kennedys did.
Kennedy has been out of hockey for a year now as the result of an off-season injury last summer. He has trained hard during this past year and is certainly contemplating a return to NHL ranks.
The historic hockey shrine and its owners have been accused of callousness and of mishandling in the whole Gordon Stuckless sexual misconduct matter. And perhaps rightfully so.
However if Dryden and his employers are looking for a way to repair and repolish their tarnished image, there may be a better, more significant way of doing so. If and when Kennedy begins his pursuit of an NHL jog, there would be no more fitting team for him to play for than these same Maple Leafs. It might just close the book on the whole sad Stuckless affair.
And if, after such a long layoff, Kennedys dream of a playing career proved fruitless, then it would be equally appropriate for the Leafs to offer him employment somewhere else in their organization. His experiences of the past year make him an ideal candidate for a public relations role, perhaps one that would involve working with children.
Martin Kruze would approve. And so would the other unfortunate Stuckless victims.
(Roger Dennie is a freelance writer who lives in Elliot Lake.)
All of this makes Sport and Postmodern Times a timely and vital collection of critical essays. At its core is an examination of sport and its significance in the construction and diffusion of dominant cultural meanings and values. In these terms, Genevieve Rail meets her stated objective for the book, which is not so much to develop an argument for or against postmodernist thoughtas to provide a critical space for diverse narratives and as many stories of everyday relations of power, domination, resistance and struggle in sport.
The narratives represented in the book cover such diverse topics as sports writing, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, representation, and political economy. While I dont have the space here for a complete review of the book, I do want to draw attention to Parts III and V, which I found to contain some of the most interesting essays in the collection. For example, David Andrews usefully employs the notion of representation in his excavation of the meaning of Michael Jordan in our media-saturated Western hyper-promotional cultures. Drawing on literature which shows how Jordan constitutes a powerful commodity-sign, Andrews seeks to disrupt the affective euphoria that has dominated the consumption of Jordans image by excavating what he sees to be the various meanings and political implications of wanting to be like Mike. (This chapter should be read in conjunction with Cheryl Cole and Samantha Kings excellent critique of the documentary Hoop Dreams in Part II).
Margaret MacNeill likewise engages the notion of representation in her chapter on the political and cultural economies of celebrity fitness videos. Through the case study method she examines a series of bestselling workout videos by Jane Fonda, Cher, and Cindy Crawford to show how the act of constructing the fit body and consuming images of celebrities through home videos has become a locus of social control. She shows how celebrity bodies are culturally produced as historical ideals and how audiences are positioned in relation to them. As MacNeill sees it, being fit is an embodied act, a social process, a product for sale, and a set of mediated relationships.
Finally, the collections concluding essay examines the consumption of the Olympic logo in postmodern media culture. While not an original critique, it is still a very instructive analysis of the political economy of the sign in historical context. VanWynsberghe and Ritchie show how the Olympic rings operate as an open-ended signifier enabling their continued symbolic consumption as both affective cultural icon and linguistic item whose meaning emerges out of the links between commodities and peoples everyday lives. This approach connects nicely with one of the books major themes the critique of consumer culture and the society of the spectacle.
Despite the highly complex and theoretical nature of many of its essays, Sport and Postmodern Times would make an excellent text for senior undergraduate and graduate courses. It will also appeal to researchers seeking innovative applications of social theory to contemporary problems facing sport and society at the close of the century.
Mark Douglas Lowes
It was 1979 and the terms sexual harassment and sexual assault hadn't been invented. The boys of Mount Cashel were as voiceless as the victimized native Indians who had attended residential schools in B.C.
Canada's national volleyball team made headlines that year by hiring its first female coach. And one of her earliest memories of the job was being told by sport officials not to promote a colleague. Apparently too many parents had complained about his inappropriate conduct with their daughters. Nothing was said about the morality of his behavior. Nothing was being done to take him out of contact with the young women whose bodies and lives he touched. And no actions were being recommended to help the athletes involved deal with the trauma of his abuse.
As groundbreaker Betty Baxter recounted this story for me in the wake of the sexual assault conviction of hockey coach Graham James, the laissez-faire attitudes of the late 1970s seemed antediluvian. And yet even in the enlightened 1990s, powerful myths about the macho world of sport are as entrenched as ever.
The sheer volume of attention accorded Sheldon Kennedy's tragic story would suggest that he is the first sport victim of sexual assault. But of course that's not so. Like Baxter, elite cyclist-turned-journalist Laura Robinson recalls being surrounded by adult male coaches engaged in sexual relationships with teenage female athletes during the 1970s. The pervasive practice, she told me, was viewed as a perk of the profession.
Moreover, the focus on junior and minor hockey leagues implies that the boys and men on skates are the only ones at risk. In fact, three years ago, CBC's Fifth Estate aired a shocking documentary about the sexual abuse of a number of young women by their rowing, swimming and volleyball coaches, at three levels of competition. Unfortunately, news about female victimsone as young as 13was obviously not shocking enough. Indeed, when a woman comes forward with allegations of sexual assault, she risks being labeled a liar and a slut. When a man comes forward with such allegations, he risked being called a fagwhich, according to sports writer Roy McGregor, is apparently the most vicious of insults anyone can hurl in the NHL. (Imagine how dangerous that makes the game on ice for all of the players who are actually gay. When CBC Radio's Inside Track interviewed a few of them in 1994, it was heart-wrenching to hear of their survival-inspired daily deceptions.)
Much has been made of the vindictive vitriol that spewed forth from Hockey Night in Canada "hero" Don Cherry in reaction to the light (but not atypically so) sentence given Graham James. Where was Cherry last October when Fifth Estate aired a second documentary about brutal initiation rites in junior hockey and a spate of sexual assault cases in which star players were accused of gang-raping female fans? Far from condemning the behavior, he denounced the documentary.
I thought the program's message was of such importance that it should have been aired to a broader audience. I regretted that it didn't generate more attention. And I wished that the producers had made more explicit the connection between the intimidation and debasement that young male hockey players are forced to endure when they join "the club" and the sexual degradation that some members then mete out to the female fans.
Given this context, it's no wonder that it took such uncommon courage on Sheldon Kennedy's part to go public with his story. But why should it take B.C. Sport Minister Jan Pullinger threatening to withdraw government funds for amateur sports organizationswhich supposedly exist to serve kidsto establish policies and procedures to protect them? And what role do journalists play? If athletes have been dealing with this for decades, and officials have been covering it up for just as long, where have the sport media been? Buying into the myths? Or actively feeding them?
Recently, former Olympic swimmer Karin Larson, now a CBC sport anchor, gave a stirring testimonial about the power coaches wield over their charges; columnist Jane O'Hara pointed out the continuing double standard of male and female victims; and The National featured the insights of Robinson and McGregor into the systemic nature of abuse in sport.
Meanwhile, the hockey "highlights" lead off with the night's "best" fights; broadcasters like Cherry manifest machismo run amok; and sports writers lament, not firstly athletes' sexual-assault convictions, but its consequences on the sport.
(Shari Graydon is a media analyst whose column appears every second Wednesday in The Vancouver Sun.)
-- BCTF (bctf.bc.ca)
The Last Word
It takes a mountain of courage just to stand up there in the first place, without having to relive the abuse by telling your story in public. So I think an abused kid should be allowed to testify behind closed doors instead of being humiliated by a defense lawyer who twists your story. When it gets twisted, the jury might not believe you. I can't imagine how tough that must be. It just blows my mind.
When I "came out" a couple of years ago, certain people didn't think I was telling the truth. Some hockey buddies tried to convince me not to lay charges against James because of what it might do to my career. But I figured I had to keep going; not to speak out would mean that he still had power over me. Besides, I wanted to help other kids and set an example. Just because you've been sexually abused as a kid, it doesn't mean you have to be a victim all your life. So I just kept with it, and did what I believed in.
Fortunately, I was spared having to testify in court in person because my lawyer read my statement and James pleaded guilty. The hardest part wasn't hearing my statement read, it was hearing the defense lawyer make out that the abuse James had inflicted on me wasn't really all that bad. That was very hard for me to handle. Now I wish I had testified myself. If I had, maybe James would have gotten a stiffer sentence instead of a slap on the wrist.
You know, abuse hurts. It hurts a lot. Just because you don't see it-- the way you'd see a kid's broken leg, for instance-- doesn't mean the pain isn't real. In fact, the pain and depression of abuse kills. During my teens, I tried to hide the pain-- with booze and rugs and fast cars. I was scared everyone would think I was gay, or that I might lose my friends or ruin my life as a hockey player. So I continued to put on a big show that everything was just fine. James was so intelligent that he fooled everyone in the community.
The emotional pain he inflicted on me was not something I can easily explain. All I know is that if I hadn't started to deal with the depression a while ago, it would have soon destroyed my life. I used to think about committing suicide, and just before January I took a knife and slashed my legs and arms and face. If my wife hadn't found me and called the ambulance, I would have died.
So now I have physical scars as well as emotional ones to provethat abuse can kill you. If you are sexually abused as a kid, the best thing to do is tell someone right away. It's easier said than done, and I remember how scared I was when I was a boy and Jmes raped me at gunpoint. Now as an adult, I feel I have an obligation to speak out on behalf of all kids who are sexually abused, partly to show them they can speak out too and partly convince adults to stop turning a blind eye to the issue.
Naturally, everyone's scared; it's a scary issue. And many people are naive. But the only way to conquer sexual abuse is to look it straight in the face. You have to be strong to deal with it. When a child tells you he or she has been abused, you have to try to listen with an open mind. Do not let fear hold you back.
There are no clearcut answers. That's why you have to ask: Why would the child want to make up stories about sexual abuse? How could he or she make up the stories if they've never seen such things? On the other hand, I knw it's not right to accuse an adult of something he didn't do. That's why you have to gather lots of evidence by listening to the child and watching for changes in behavior. When I was a kid, I know some people thought I was screwed up. Maybe I was, but there were reasons for my behavior. Now that I'm an adult, I'm trying to get to the bottom of my pain and heal it.
I have a daughter of my own, and I wonder how anyone could harm such a small and defenseless creature. I hope that by speaking out against the sexual abuse of kids I can help break the blinding spell that child abusers cast over adults and children. The two-year sentences the courts hand out to convicted child abusers-- I'm including Travis Sterling* and Gordon Stuckless**-- are a joke. If I can help just one abused kid; if I can prevent one suicide like Martin Kruze's-- then my own uphill battle will have been well worth it.
NEW YORK - Sheldon Kennedy wants to return to the NHL. He wants to prove to himself that he can make it back and be a better hockey player. But he had something more important to do first. Kennedy, a one-time Calgary Flame, has a lot to smile about.
Kennedy, 29, trekked across Canada on in-line skates to raise money for and awareness of child sexual abuse and child abuse. It was a grueling 4 1/2-month journey that spanned 5,200 miles. But it was well worth it.
He is trying to raise $15 million to help open Anaphe Ranch, a 640-acre preserve south of Banff, Alberta. In mythology, Anaphe is a Greek goddess who is the protector of children. The Calgary-based Sheldon Kennedy Foundation already has the land.
"But we want to be able to build the ranch and also use it as a library, as an educational center for people to come and research the issue of abuse and also set up programs and put money back into programs across Canada," he said.
Actually, the goal is much simpler, Kennedy explained. "We are trying to make Canada the safest place for kids."
It has been two years since Kennedy came forward and admitted he had been abused for years by his junior hockey coach, Graham James. Confused, Kennedy turned to drugs and alcohol. Those who know him say he lived the way he played hockey -- with reckless abandon.
Kennedy left St. John, Newfoundland, on May 30 and skated some 600 miles through Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. He continued across Canada, and five months later, reached his destination of Vancouver.
On an average day, he skated about 30 miles before chatting with local school children or youth hockey teams. Kennedy would eat lunch, and then off he'd go for another 30 miles of skating.
"The kids' reactions I get, it is incredible," he said. "When I speak to the kids, I don't speak about the gory details, about the abuse. I try to enlighten the kids about what we're trying to accomplish with our journey.
"And when I speak to parents, I tell them I think we need to educate ourselves, more so than we do the children, because we are the ones who are going to be asked the question if it ever happens. And I think we have to be prepared to answer because too many times, it is swept under the carpet because people don't understand it."
Obviously, Kennedy has a unique perspective. He understands the pain experienced by victims of abuse.
"I think that trying to explain to somebody a hurt or a pain or a confusion in your head, where people can't see what is wrong with you is very different than looking at somebody with a broken leg," Kennedy said. "It is very easy to see that they are hurt. But I think when you look at somebody that looks normal but is running around doing things, I think you have to look at it in a different way."
To learn more about the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation, check out the foundation's web site at www.anaphe.com.
-- NHL For Kids
For any of our readers who don't know, two years ago, Sheldon Kennedy (formerly of the Red Wings, Flames and Bruins) came forward and admitted he had been abused for years by his junior hockey coach, Graham James. James was subsequently convicted and jailed for his crimes. But that wasn't enough of a resolution for Sheldon, who has since dedicated himself to doing all he can to combat child abuse.
Sheldon's latest project is a cross-Canada trek on in-line skates. He is trying to raise $15 million to help open Anaphe Ranch, a 640-acre preserve south of Banff, Alberta. In mythology, Anaphe is a Greek goddess who is the protector of children. The Calgary-based Sheldon Kennedy Foundation already has the land. "But we want to be able to build the ranch and also use it as a library, as an educational center for people to come and research the issue of abuse and also set up programs and put money back into programs across Canada," explains Sheldon.
Sheldon left St. John's, Newfoundland on May 30th and has skated some 600 miles through Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. He has 123 days and 4,800 miles to go before he reaches his destination in Vancouver. The trip also includes visits with local school children, youth hockey teams, and parents.
To contribute to the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation, call toll-free (877) 4ANAPHE. Information can also be found on the Internet at Anaphe's web site, and you can follow Sheldon's journey at Slam's Kennedy Skate Page.
We commend Sheldon for his remarkable dedication to overcoming his own victimization, rise above it, and do so much to make his country a safer place for kids. A safe and happy journey to you, Sheldon, along with a well-deserved Golden Finger!
The Golden Finger is an award granted by Hockey Snacks to persons associated with the sport of hockey who perform acts of unusual valor. Send your nominees to: firstname.lastname@example.org
WINNIPEG - Former hockey coach Graham James, whose conviction last year for sexually assaulting his players rocked the sporting world, makes his plea for parole this week.
And Sheldon Kennedy, the former National Hockey League player who helped put James behind bars, has permission to attend the parole hearing just outside Winnipeg.
But Kennedy won't be allowed to speak, said Elaine Cherkewich, with the National Parole Board in Saskatoon.
"There is no provision for victims or anyone else to speak at the hearing other than the designated case management staff and the offender and the board members," she said.
Earlier this month, Kennedy decided he wanted to attend the parole hearing to find out if James finally understands that he did something wrong.
"The big thing for me is: Has he learned anything, like the damage he has done?" Kennedy said.
The 29-year-old became widely admired for his courage and perseverance after publicly revealing he had been sexually abused for years by James.
The chances appear good that James will be granted parole, despite a second conviction last February for indecently assaulting a 14-year-old Winnipeg boy in 1971.
"My impression is that Mr. James is likely to be a candidate for successful reintroduction into the community," Provincial Judge Brian Corrin said at the time he sentenced James to a concurrent six months.
The concurrent sentence means James did not have to serve any additional prison time on top of the 3 1/2 years he received in January, 1997, for hundreds of sexual assaults involving Kennedy and another player with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League.
James has been eligible for day parole since September, 1997, and full parole since March 3. Even if parole is not granted, he will be out of prison next May under statutory release provisions.
The hearing Wednesday at Rockwood, the minimum-security annex at Stony Mountain penitentiary, is the third scheduled to review James's case.
He cancelled the first one himself in 1997 and one scheduled for August - coincidentally when Kennedy was in-line skating through Manitoba - was postponed.
Kennedy has since finished a cross-Canada skate to raise awareness and money for sexual abuse victims.
-- The Star
TORONTO (CP) --
The Arthritis Society issued a warning Tuesday for Canadians to be on
the lookout for a bogus fund-raiser on in-line skates. The man, whose
name is not known, says he's raising money for the society's research
fund. So far, he has made his bogus pitch in several Ontario communities.
The bogus skater is not to be confused with former NHL player Sheldon
Kennedy who is also roller-blading across Canada to raise awareness
of sexual abuse of children.