Hockey observers had long suspected that something was not right with former Calgary star Theo Fleury and now he admits in a new book what they knew all along—he was sexually abused by youth hockey coach Graham James.
For those who don't recall, James—a popular and successful junior league coach in western Canada—was convicted in 1997 of sexual abuse after one of his former players, NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, confessed that James had abused him for several years. Although Kennedy was the only one who spoke out, James himself implied that there were other kids involved. He was often accused of giving special treatment to his "favorites" and also severely punishing those who fell out of line.
Since Fleury was a protege of James and even played on the same team as Kennedy when they were 16, some had long believed that he was also a victim. (Kennedy says now that he new Fleury was also abused, but refused to "blow the whistle" on anyone.) Fleury had a fantastic pro career, but spent most of it addicted to drugs and alcohol, problems that he directly attributes to James' abuse.
He also says in the book that he "failed 13 drug tests during his career, but was never prevented from playing." (He was eventually suspended indefinitely in 2003 and then failed in his comeback attempt this season.)
The new book will certainly revive interest in the scary tales of young, impressible hockey kids being shipped off into the care of unscrupulousness traveling teams and their creepy coaches, but James was clearly an exception and not the rule. Plus, he's out of jail and coaching in Spain now so he can't hurt anybody there, right?
Theo's secret [Calgary Sun]
Theo Fleury claims sexual abuse by junior hockey coach in new book [On The Forecheck]
Sheldon Kennedy: "I hope Theo's ready for what's going to come out" [Calgary Herald]
Theo Fleury: I was sexually abused by junior coach [ESPN]