Graham James, who when the head coach of the Swift Current Broncos junior hockey team in the WHL during the 80s and 90s, sexually abused many players, finally apologized to victims whose lives he harmed and, in at least one case, all but destroyed.
James had plead guilty in December to a second round of charges related to his abuses and at a hearing on Feb. 22 he was told by Judge Catherine Carlson in a Winnipeg courtroom that he will be sentenced on March 20. James read from a prepared statement to a courtroom that included some of his victims.
"I stand before you with regret. Parents expected sons to be safe; not all were," James read. At one point in his statement he addressed former NHLer Theo Fleury, who was not present at the hearing, and another former junior player of his, Todd Holt, Fleury's cousin, who was. "I wanted the best for you, but did not give you my best (and) for my behaviour, I am deeply sorry. I was wrong."
Graham James: convicted sexual-abuser
James, who had been convicted in 1997 of sexually abusing former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy when Kennedy was a junior player, has spent but 18 months in jail for his crimes thus far, that for his offences against Kennedy and two other, unnamed, players. After his release he eventually fled to Mexico.
Then Fleury, who was a star in the NHL for over a decade but suffered, as had Kennedy, from substance abuse issues due to the abuse he suffered from James, wrote 'Playing with Fire', a book that detailed his abuse at the hands of James. That lead to charges for crimes against Fluery and others and, after Canadian news agencies discovered his whereabouts, James returned to Canada to stand trial.
Former Bronco Todd Holt: "shame and disgust"
Holt, who had set scoring records as a Bronco but never made the NHL as his life spiraled down in an abyss of substance abuse, cried as he read a victim impact statement. He said that any chance he had to be an NHL player was taken from him by James and that because of the way he felt inside after enduring so much sexual abuse from his former coach, he lost his family, a wife and two kids.
"I had nothing but shame and disgust when I looked in the mirror," Holt said. "My interpretation of love was tainted. I hid from everyone who cared for me."