Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Former NHL player expects more accusations against hockey coach
Predicts other will point finger at hockey coach
CALGARY -- Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy says Graham James could have as many as 150 accusers and more will likely come forward now that a controversial pardon has put the shamed hockey coach back in the spotlight.
James, who coached several junior teams, was granted a pardon from the parole board in 2007 for sexual assaults against two of his former players, including Kennedy. He was sentence to 3 1/2 years in prison in 1997.
"Back when I charged him and he pleaded guilty the police figured in their investigation of myself and the other guy who came forward that there was anywhere between 75 and 150 and I would think that's not too far off," said Kennedy.
"I think the way this whole thing has been presented, it's almost re-sparked that fire within people to say: 'You know what, I need to come forward to make changes.' And not only with Graham.
"Look at the heightened awareness around this pardon stuff."
The James case had faded from the spotlight until last year when former NHL star Theo Fleury wrote a book in which he made allegations that he was abused by his former coach. Winnipeg police launched a fresh investigation.
The Canadian Press learned of James's pardon from another previously unknown accuser who went to Winnipeg police with his story and was told of a possible pardon by investigators.
That accuser, who played for the Fort Garry Blues in Winnipeg, said he had yet to file a formal complaint with police.
But there are reports that others have come forward to police recently, including one Calgary man who was reportedly abused while in Saskatchewan and another man, who also played for the Blues, and said that James's strange behaviour forced him to quit playing hockey.
There has been no public comment from James about the allegations and the disgraced coach's current whereabouts are unknown. He would have had to have been conviction-free for five years following the completion of his sentence in order to qualify for a pardon.
Police won't talk about the complaints and no fresh charges have been laid.
Mark Gobuty, a Blues player who was coached by James in 1980-81, said he never witnessed anything sexual but had a vague, uneasy feeling about James and repeatedly rejected requests to visit James at his home.
"Graham's behaviour was odd and uncomfortable," Gobuty, 45, said Tuesday from Toronto.
"There's at least 50 more suffering guys out there that don't want to tell their story."
He said Graham would "show special favours" to some players, such as giving them more ice time or inviting them over to his apartment. He said as a naive 15-year-old, he didn't fully realize what was going on but noticed some players were brought up to the junior A team when their skills weren't at that level.
"I was invited over to watch game films on a couple or three occasions. After I turned him down a couple or three times, I just wasn't invited again," he said. "He always gave me the heebie-jeebies."
Kennedy said James took steps to cover his tracks.
"He would invite other players back to his place and wouldn't do anything with them. So he would go through the same motions with some other guys on the team but not do anything. And they would go 'nothing happened to me,' " Kennedy said.
Pedophiles are "master manipulators," he suggested.
"It's like an obsession, right? It's like an addict."
Kennedy, who was a teammate of Fleury's on the Calgary Flames, has dedicated his life to speaking out about sexual abuse and was elected to the board of the Canadian Society for the Investigation of Child Abuse. His experiences were chronicled in the 1999 television movie The Sheldon Kennedy Story on CTV.
In 2006 Kennedy released his autobiography Why I Didn't Say Anything -- The Sheldon Kennedy Story. In the book he said nightmares of James plagued him, and suggested there are plenty of others who has suffered the same fate.
-- The Canadian Press
OTTAWA -- Ex-convicts, including sex offenders such as former junior hockey coach Graham James, can avoid having their criminal history checked by legally changing their name.
Name changes in Canada are done at the provincial level, and only two provinces, British Columbia and Alberta, currently demand fingerprints when someone applies.
"Absolutely it's a concern," Supt. Chuck Walker, the director of field services for the Mounties' national criminal database, said.
"We're aware of scenarios where we've actually had convicted persons apply and obtain a legal name change and there is no linkage -- no connecting of the dots if you will -- until they're picked up and charged (again)."
Once a person is charged and fingerprinted, the CPIC database will quickly determine if matching prints are on file under a different name, at which point a new alias would be added to the existing file.
The former Western Hockey League coach appears to have fallen off the map since surfacing briefly in 2001-03 working a coaching stint in Spain. Even a shocking tell-all autobiography published last October by Fleury failed to elicit any public comment from James.
That's led to speculation the 58-year-old has assumed a new identity.
While legal name changes are "gazetted" in provincial government publications, there's no national system for cross-referencing them to RCMP or other police databases.
This is definitely troublesome that there are more accusations against Graham James, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't have been pardoned. If he was crime free for 5 years, which he was, the National Parole Board can't predict that in the future, he would re-offend. It's just too tough to predict behaviour like that in many cases. James served his sentence and was released and therefore, has a right to be pardoned. The laws surrounding sex offenders and pardons should not be changed, as they are already treated differently (sex offender's names are flagged when applying for a job involving children or vulnerable people). However, I do think that the name-change laws should be altered somehow so that it is easier for police to connect the dots, with individuals who have changed their names and who are charged with an offence or have a previous record.