?? - posted on 10/14/2009 ( 1 mom has responded )
His professional hockey career may be over, but it appears Theoren Fleury has one more story to tell.
Sun Media reported on Friday that Fleury will reveal in his tell-all book next week that he was sexually abused by his former junior coach Graham James. Excerpts from Fleury's book regarding his relationship with James were also made available Friday on the website of MacLean's magazine.
"(James) destroyed my belief system," read the excerpt in MacLean's. "The most influential adult in my life at the time was telling me that what I thought was wrong was right. I no longer had faith in myself or my own judgment. And when you come down to it, that's all a person has. Once it's gone, how do you get it back?"
James, the former head coach of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Calgary Hitmen was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison after former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy made similar allegations in 1996.
Graham was head coach of the Warriors in 1984-85 when 16-year-old Fleury and 15-year-old Kennedy were on the team.
"Graham was on me once or twice a week for the next two years," read the excerpt in MacLean's. "An absolute nightmare, every day of my life."
Kennedy, who told Sun Media that he knew Fleury was also a victim of James, had supportive words for Fleury on Friday but also said he knew what a battle he faced ahead.
"I know how difficult it's going to be for him," Kennedy told TSN. "Disclosing the past is never easy, especially in a public manner. I hope Theoren takes care of himself through all this because it is going to be hard, whether he likes it or admits it or not. It will be hard."
Over his 15-year NHL career, Fleury battled alcohol abuse and was suspended by the league in 2003 for contravening the league's substance abuse and behaviour policy. He was reinstated this fall, enabling him to attempt a comeback with the Calgary Flames at the age of 41. He was released by the team last month.
Kennedy has since turned his efforts toward several programs aimed at helping children who are victims of sexual abuse and the report indicates Fleury would like to follow the same path.
"Right from day one that I remember Theoren as a kid, he's had a tough shake and I think it takes a lot of courage to come forward," Kennedy said. "I think Theoren's proven that he's resilient. I think the biggest thing with Theoren. The key now to be able to be as strong as Theo needs to be is the ability to keep reaching out when all of this stuff is done, to keep on the rails to move forward.
"I'm glad that he's admitting what's gone on in his life and now I think it's about that daily quest of dealing with it and understanding that he doesn't have to live in the craziness and the shame and the guilt that abuse puts on one," Kennedy said.
Theoren Fleury's autobiography wastes little time calling the NHL and NHLPA's substance abuse program into question.
In Playing with Fire, Fleury alleges he failed multiple drug tests in 2001 while starring with the New York Rangers, yet the league and program doctors allowed him to continue playing:
"I had thirteen dirty tests in a row, but I was leading the NHL in scoring. So what were they going to do? I was putting Gatorade in tests. And although he didn't know it, my baby Beaux was peeing for me too. The NHL doctors kept warning me, ‘Another dirty test and we're taking you out.' So what did I do? C'mon, I've never followed a rule in my life."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly responded to Fleury's allegations the league overlooked his failed substance abuse tests:
"The terms of our Program preclude us from responding with specifics to Mr. Fleury's assertions. However, we are prepared to say that his general recollection of that time period is factually inaccurate in a number of respects. We are satisfied that the NHL/NHLPA's Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health at all times responded appropriately in Mr. Fleury's treatment. We continue to support Mr. Fleury and are very pleased and happy for him that he has progressed so far in his recovery. We wish him nothing but the best in the future."
On the day his autobiography is released, it appears Theoren Fleury may be willing to pursue charges against his former junior hockey coach.
According to the Calgary Herald, Fleury is looking at the possibility of pressing charges against Graham James, the man he alleges sexually abused him during his playing days with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. While he is looking at all his options, Fleury tells TSN he has yet to make a decision on the matter.
''We're looking into it,'' Fleury told the Calgary Herald. ''We have a group, a team of people in place, doing just that. We want to make sure we're protected in this and everything is in order. But I think there'll be something (to announce) soon.
''We're going to do what's best for me and my family. I think the last four years I've shown that I've made the right choices. And I'll do that again. We want people like Graham James off the street, in places where they should be.''
In 1997, James was sentenced to 42 months in prison after former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy and another junior hockey player accused him of sexual assault during their time in the WHL.
While me admits he wasn't ready to travel down this path before, he knew once he wrote his book entitled 'Playing With Fire' that legal action could be the next step.
''I'm ready for it. I'm strong enough now to handle it,' Fleury told the Herald. ''I'm at a good place, a safe place, in my life. I've stopped playing the victim: 'Poor me, poor me, poor me. Pour me another one.'