Theo Fleury was abused: “An absolute nightmare, every day of my life”

MACLEAN’S EXCLUSIVE: Harrowing details from his new book and interview with the retired NHL star

Theoren Fleury was abused: "An absolute nightmare, every day of my life"Retired hockey star Theoren Fleury has at long last confirmed that he was sexually abused by his junior coach, Graham James, a trauma he says drove him to alcohol, drugs and promiscuity throughout his otherwise impressive 16-year NHL career. “The direct result of my being abused was that I became a f—ing raging, alcoholic lunatic,” he writes in Playing with Fire, an autobiography to be released this week, and provided in advance to Maclean’s. “[James] destroyed my belief system. 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?”

It is an account the hockey world has long waited to hear, as Fleury’s career had been one of the most spectacularly troubled in NHL history. For years, the spark-plug forward has stone-walled questions about his time with James, even as his violent outbursts on the ice and binges off it pointed to something terrible in his past. Until the book, former Boston Bruin Sheldon Kennedy had been the only player to go public about being abused by James. He was hailed as a hero for coming forward, and said at the time one other NHL player had been abused. He did not name the player, and while speculation quickly enveloped Fleury, it died off when it became clear the player had no intention of addressing the issue.

In his book, however, Fleury lifts the lid on the entire harrowing tale, beginning when the Manitoba coach recruited him at 13 from his minor hockey team in Russell, Man., to play junior in Winnipeg. “Graham was on me once or twice a week for the next two years,” Fleury writes of the assaults, whose memories remain vivid to him. “An absolute nightmare, every day of my life.” James required him to sleep two nights a week at the coach’s house, rather than with the woman with whom he’d been billetted. He tried to fight off the coach at first, wrapping himself in blankets each night and pretending to sleep as James attempted to masturbate him and give him oral sex. But the fear of James’s advances left him sleepless, and exhaustion broke him down, he writes; so too did James’s frequent warnings that, without his coach’s support, he stood little chance of playing professional hockey.

Fleury, now 41, says he was particularly vulnerable to James’s psychological manipulation because had little in the way of a family support system: his father was an alcoholic and his mother was addled by prescription sedatives. James easily convinced them he was the best thing to ever happen to their son, Fleury adds, just as he had done with Kennedy’s single mother. “I had rarely seen them like this—happy,” he says. “Their boy had made it. My dad was no longer a worthless drunk and my mom drugged out and helpless.” When James’s Western Hockey League team, the Winnipeg Warriors, moved to Moose Jaw, both Fleury and Kennedy went with him. A year later, James was let go amid rumours of inappropriate behaviour and returned to Winnipeg with Kennedy in tow. He tried to convince Fleury to go with him, blandishing him and Kennedy that summer with a car trip to Disneyland. Earlier reports that Fleury had been asleep in the backseat of the car when James sexually abused Kennedy in the front during that trip were true, Fleury writes. But that wasn’t the half of it. The three stayed in motels throughout the trip, he says, and the boys would have to take turns sleeping with James. “Think about how sick that is,” Fleury writes. “When he dropped me off at my parents’ place after that trip, that was it. It was over. I was out, home free.”

Fleury says he kept the abuse a secret at the time because he was sure it would end his hockey career. “I could see how it would play. I would have been stigmatized forever as the kid who was molested by his coach. The Victim.

“Would minor hockey have said, ‘Wow, we better watch out for Theoren and protect him because he told the truth’? No. It would have been James was a pervert and Fleury ‘let him’ molest him. Or I would be the equally pervy kid who had a ‘relationship’ with his coach. Would I have been invited to the Hockey Canada camp that led to Piestany, which led to the NHL? Get real.” His refusal to come clean after James was arrested in 1997 is harder to explain. It effectively made Kennedy—his friend and teammate at the time in Calgary—the public face of the scandal (a third player who was abused while James was coach of the WHL Swift Current Broncos in the late 1980s has also remained anonymous). In an exclusive interview with Maclean’s this week, Fleury says the two addressed the issue in summer of 1997, in Arizona. “I respected his decision and Sheldon respected mine,” he says. “Secretly, I think we’ve both known that we’ve always had each others’ support. Now we go to a [12-step] meeting together every week, and that’s been a gift. I think we started repairing the relationship that night in Arizona.”

As it turned out, Fleury lived in fear throughout his pro career that the truth about he and James would come out. He quickly learned that liquor and drugs dulled his anxiety, and Playing with Fire recalls that descent in painstaking detail. He discovered alcohol at 16 and, after being drafted by the Calgary Flames in 1987, he began using marijuana and cocaine, quickly becoming, in his own words, a full-blown addict. Through all this, he was engaged in three long-term relationships, marrying twice and having four children. But as his career progressed, stripper bars became his home away from home, he says.

In New York, where he signed as a free agent with the Rangers in 1999, his addictions reached epic proportions, and he sunk to cringe-inducing depths. To flummox testers from the NHL’s substance abuse program, he would pour Gatorade into his urine samples. He even used urine from his then-infant son Beaux to fool the system. Meanwhile, his taste in company became increasingly grimy. “I didn’t hang out on the surface with your average Joe,” Fleury writes. “I would go five, six, seven, eight levels below the streets of New York and party with freaks, transvestites, strippers and all kinds of shady people.”

He also got deeply into gambling during that period. Between casinos and strip clubs—where he would drop thousands in a night on drinks and lap dances—he figures he burned through almost all of the US$50 million he was paid during his time in the NHL.

The details of this period reflect well on neither Fleury nor the NHL. By his own admission, he gave 13 dirty urine samples in a row to the NHL testers, yet was allowed to keep playing. The league finally forced him into treatment in the summer of 2001, which allowed him to compete in the 2002 Winter Games, where the Canadian men’s hockey team won a gold medal. But he soon relapsed, leaving the league for good the following year. His rock-bottom moment came in September 2005, while he played in the Allan Cup senior hockey tournament in Lloydminster, Alta. His parents had come to watch him, and after his team got knocked out of the playoff round, he got drunk and poured out his anger to his parents for leaving him with James. It was the first time, he tells Maclean’s, the family had confronted the issue directly, and his mother and father wept, telling him they were sorry. “It was important to hear that word from them,” he says in an interview. “From that day forward, I’ve been able to move on with that part of my life—the stuff with my parents.” Since then, he says, he has been clean and sober, supported by his wife Jennifer, who he was dating when he played in the Allan Cup.

It is a calmer, stabler Fleury who looks back on that period now, and after a walk-on tryout last month with his old team, the Calgary Flames, he’s made his peace with leaving the game. He has written the book, he says, in hopes of convincing any young person suffering sexual abuse to seek help. “One thing I’ve come to realize is that, without Graham James I still would have had the same career,” he tells Maclean’s. “I look back on the way I played the game, and to be honest, there were not a lot of guys as naturally talented as I was. Add in my fierce, competitive edge and all those little intangibles—that’s what made me great. It was all part of me before I met Graham James.”




Browse

Theo Fleury was abused: “An absolute nightmare, every day of my life”

  1. Good luck Theo, this is a sobering article and hope all is OK now

  2. God bless you, Theo, for doing the right thing. And your parents, too, for saying that they were sorry. It is a good day for Sheldon, too. He has been a lonely hero for far, far, too long.

    • I lovee you !!!!!!!

  3. Theo you just helped alot of people. Good luck in the future.

  4. It's too bad he didn't have a better support network. Surely people in his organizations knew what was going on. To let him go to New York where it's so much easier to hide your addictions just seems wrong.

    • I know how easy it is too want to blame the Flames for their part in this but you must understand that if the person is in denial about there addictions all the support in the world won't do a thing. Until the person can admit they have a problem and want to get help there isn't a lot that can be done for them. The NHL should be ashamed that Theo admits to testing positive numerous times in a row and they never suspended him. If they had it may have helped to hit his bottom sooner. Unfortunately the all mighty buck wins out and if you have a marque player the entertianment industry doesn't care about there personal live as long as they are making them money.

      • Exactly, the NHL did what was best for the organization, not Theo…no surprise in that. As Theo had remarked, if he came forward with issues of abuse by a "well respected and connected" coach in the league, he would not have been heard…good on Sheldon for being the first to talk…and good on Theo now for exposing what so often occurs within these organizations. Imagine…13 years old…disgusting…that is where the hockey world needs to step up – where is the support now from the NHL…they allow this to occur for the greed of their own desires. Where is our Wayne…as a leader he should step up and denounce…I have to ask, if you were sexually molested and all your trust in the world destroyed…how would you deal with it other than trying to numb the pain…just be grateful and give thanks on this Thanksgiving weekend you never had to go through what these boys went through. At least they have the courage to stand up and face not only addictions but the shame of what an adult had committed against them…they are stronger than anyone will ever be able to face up to…and I know what I am talking about.

    • hello !

  5. Wow,
    What a story can't wait for the book. Good luck Theo and Sheldon

  6. Good Luck Theo

  7. good luck Theo! it is though, a travesty that this monster, Graham only served 3.5 years for his crime!

    • I would have to agree with peter. It is not only sad, but a total embarrassment , that our legal system lets these unforgivable crimes such as James's off with 3.5 years. When he reenters the courts in this next few months he needs to be punished properly as this case is under the microscope. If these actions are not punished properly, what is deterring any future actions , such as these by others??

  8. You & Sheldon are heroes for this. I applaud you.

  9. Theo – it takes guts to tell your story. for your courage, i applaud you. you were handed a biological time-bomb that was not your fault and I am sorry that you had to endure so much pain throughout your life that ultimately led to your addictions to mask and escape that pain. as a hockey player – you were amazing, more importantly as a man – you are an inspiration. God bless you, Theo!

  10. I was once abused to when i was little. I know how you and shelton feel.

    shelton and theo are my favorite players.

    • its okay man live strong die hard :p

  11. I remember Theo as a MJ Warrior, there was a night in Swift he was playing against the Broncos. Normally its the heavey weights that square off at center ice. This night however it was Theo and the late Scotty Kruger, Scotty was killed in the infamous bus crash, this was a flyweight battle no one will forget. Theo will always be remembered as a player. The last chapter of this storey will be written when a certain active NHL coach comes clean about his association with the hideous Graham James.

  12. A close family member of mine was abused as a ten year old. Fourty years later, she's still dealing with it. Theo, you give her hope that the pain can be overcome.

  13. God bless you, Theo. Secrets get very heavy after awhile.

  14. I am so sorry for all the pain you are going through! I pray for GOD's deliverance in your life. You are doing the right thing by speaking in thruth!
    God BLESS YOU!

  15. I truly admire your courage! Can't wait to read the book, I wish you health and happiness as the unwritten chapters unfold. You will be an inspiration to many!

  16. What I find very sad, aside from the trauma and abuse the children go through, is that parents will say that they knew something was wrong but didn't know what. When will parents figure out that it is part of their responsibility to sit down and talk to their kids and listen to what the kids have to say? It's not easy, especially with hurt and angry children, but it has to be done.

  17. Theo, you're a Phoenix. May your star continue to rise and soar. Calgary loves you.

  18. It is sad that these predators are out there doing these things to our young children. Hopefully Theo and Sheldon coming forward will make more parents be aware of who there children are being influenced by. These kids are young and impressionable and have a goal of one day playing in the pros of their chosen sport and these sick perverts use that as the tool to abuse by promising to help them advance if they do this and that but if they don't then they will ruin their chances of making it. I have seen changes being made to who gets to become involved with children in minor sports and that is great but I as a former assistant coach of 8 and 9 year olds too many parents just drop the kids of at the rink never really taking the time to come in and really meet the coach. Theo and Sheldon best of luck in the rest of your lives and thank you for having the courage and strength to come forward with these horrible acts againts you. God Bless.

  19. It only proves how important support systems & trust are in a young adults life. Good Luck

  20. Theo:

    Brava, to you and your wife Jennifer who it seems has provided a terrific support network. The truth will set you free. Keep working those steps!

  21. Why am I not surprised the NHL had their heads buried …? As was exposed with the Phoenix fiasco, this league is led by a bunch of neanderhals!! How criminal !! They care little about the game and the people that made it great.

  22. I am so sorry for all the pain you are going through! I pray for GOD's deliverance in your life. You are doing the right thing by speaking in thruth!

  23. Good luck Theo God Bless ! Always be inspire by you.

  24. Your greatest victory has come off the ice, conquering the demons inflicted upon you by that monster. You knew best when it was time to share your story and now that you have, you will bring hope to many other victims.Considering what you went through, your career was astonishing! Congratulations on an amazing career and on winning at the toughest game of all – life.

  25. So sorry for your pain Theo. You are a hero for both sobering up and coming forward.
    Sometimes the unique relationship between coach and player can be frightening. The perceived power of the Jr or NHL hockey coach is enormous from a young players eyes and if abused this power is lethal. Players and parents need accountability and moral infallibility from coaches, just as they do from their teachers and priests.

  26. Theo, I've been struggling all of my life…I was sexually abused by a person of trust when I was a boy of age 10 to age 13. I'm in my 40's now and and on the surface; seem like a successful father, athlete, academic and businessman. However, there's this dark side of my life that hides the past and lives in a private hell. It's blocked by a secret life filled with alcohol, gambling and promiscuity. At times I seem to relate better to the underbelly of society than to my peers within the "normal" part of my life. Like Sheldons and others before him, your courage to confront the past gives people like me some hope. I'm not ready to confront this but promise you that I'll make changes to the betterment of my life.

  27. Congratulations, Mr. Fleury. It is so good to see you claim the strength and pride that is rightfully yours. Your bravery is inspiring.

  28. One day at a time Theo. I wish you and your family serenity. I admire you and I applaud the sports media for respecting your privacy for all those years. As for James, he will ultimately have to answer to a higher power.

  29. Now you can help others with a similar story. What a gift you have been freely given. See you at a meeting, Theo. Bob S.

  30. This explains the "comeback" staged by you a couple of weeks ago. Raised your profile again to give added publicity for your book.

    • There are no words available that would sufficiently express what low life and moron you are.

    • There are no words available that would sufficiently express what a low life and moron you are.

      As to the charge you make, It is almost certainly the cathartic effect of writing the book, that gave Theoren the strength to make such a dramatic comeback, that is respected by everyone in hockey.

    • P.B only abusers like you and Graham will make comments like that you should be ashame, Theo was a great Player and he tried to comeback wich you will never try to apoligize to him for your sarcastic comments you are a sick man P.B

    • you are right and sutter owed it to him because he was friends with james. Everyone in the nhl is guilty especially betman they new about this and other things that have gone on. There is alot of guilty partys players coaches and players. But it is all about money and fame. As much as i feel for theo you have kids and you knew james was sexually abusing more kids every year you were guilty in not stopping it and hired him on the hitmen and money and fame was more important then i believe what james does and continues to do is woarse then murder. I pray u get better and i hope you donate all your money for all those who suffered by james while you never said anything and kept making millions.

    • Got to love you man – another cynical S.O.B. – you like kicking guys when they are down!! May God touch your heart with a humble sense of loving others!!

    • How dare you! Small minded people like always belittle the positive accomplishments of others. Until you change you will be on the outside looking in – you are cold and unfeeling, no compassion for the misfortune of others.

  31. God Bless you

  32. you were one of my fave players to watch–a little fireball, with so much talent!

    so sorry you had to endure so much pain. god bless you and your wife–continue to take it a day at a time.

  33. In 1997 when i heard about what happened to Sheldon kennedy it brought back the memories of what happened to me. I was sexually abused by a half brother who was a minor hockey coach who abused many in the minor hockey in Prince Rupert,BC. I started my healing and went on to become a counselor and develop a Trauma Resource Kit for Aboriginal Communities. This is excellent that Theo Fleury is speaking out, it brings the awareness of the need to speak out if a person has suffered sexual abuse. Our society needs to bring awareness of trauma and post-traumatic stress to those that have suffered a traumatic event in their life. Finding ways to speak out whether through the media, journal writing, counseling, art therapy helps to heal the pain attached to the trauma. If post-traumatic stress is not recognized at the early stage, can impact a persons health and further impact their childhood,youth and adult life. It is clearly scene through the testimonies of Sheldon and Theo. We need to bring pubic awareness of post-traumatic stress to help those that are victims of violence.
    http://www.anaphe.org/09_Archives.html

    • Gerald, thank you for your courage and conviction. Keep up the great work!

  34. Theo-
    Courageous Life. Courageous Book. A favorite of mine for a long time because you are real. Real intense. Really talented. Really struggling sometimes. A Real Man. Nicely done. God Bless You and those you love.

  35. Too long a list of abused kids in this thread, and add me to the list. And I don't understand the comment in the article about how it was less understandable that Fleury would keep quiet once charges were pending. Makes perfect sense to me.

    Once you get it in your head that you're not going to talk about it, you're not going to talk about it – at least, not until it's on your decision, and not the decision of a court or a spouse or some other outside force, because opening up on someone else's timetable is a recipe for blind rage, and you/we/us know it. In my experience, keeping quiet is the smart thing to do.

    Once you start talking about it, you find all of a sudden that all of those close friends you had aren't dumb enough to hang around and let themselves be talked to, and the few that do start judging you entirely by that one confession, making the whole experience worse.

    Good luck, Theo – I hope you don't regret it.

  36. How does Fleury explain the hiring of James to the Hitmen organization when he was part owner and fully aware of what this sick pervert would do to other up and coming hockey stars like himself ?Very disturbing. Good luck Theo.

    • Read his book once it is available. I am sure it will provide the answers you are looking for, and provide you with a lot of insight into Fleury's private hell.

    • It wasn't until James was hired to the Hitmen organization that he was finally put in jail. Almost immediately the kids on the team were linked up to a policeman, before anything even hit the press. I wonder if this was Fleury's way of finally getting him put in jail without having to come out publically about it. The WHL couldn't very well continue to ignore the problem when it was right in their backyard. (this is assuming that the WHL had heard rumors of James behavior already). Maybe there was a method to his madness. Maybe Fleury knew something would finally be done if James was dumped on the WHL's doorstep. Don't be so quick to judge the victim.

  37. These are great men, Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury. There is no greater testament to your significance as a man, than being courageous enough to expose an abusive deviant who took advantage when they were vulnerable. Congratulations men, you have my deepest respect.

  38. These are great men, Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury. There is no greater testament to your significance as a man, than being courageous enough to expose an abusive deviant who took advantage when they were vulnerable. Congratulations men, you have my deepest respect and I thank you for making the world a safer place for people who are now similarly vulnerable.

  39. Dear Theo
    I need to write and thank you for having the courage to speak about your terrible inflicted abuse..– you did a service to your fellow men and women –( many, including some in my own family by my dad's close friend) — by saying what you said. Your expose should provide a message to all, including the Administration of the NHL, who I hope comment on your book and article, 'there are sick men and sick women out there, hidden under various costumes' — the adults absolutely – parents, Admin, and all those in positions of responsibilty MUST ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THE YOUNG AND THE INNOCENT. AS FAR AS IT IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE –
    Society can do so much more –and must..

    May God continue to give you strength to 'take your story' to those who desperately need to hear it, and know 'they can overcome' with love, help, and God's abundant graces in our souls..

    You are a true Canadian hero Theo -= off the rink! the kind we really need today.

    Mary

  40. These are great men, Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury. There is no greater testament to your significance as a man, than being courageous enough to expose an abusive deviant who took advantage when they were vulnerable. Congratulations men, you have my deepest respect and I thank you for making the world a safer place for people who are similarly vulnerable.

  41. It is absolutely incredible how much of this goes on and the profound effect it has on those who are victimized. When you have a person in a position of power and a child you will find abusers and the only way to prevent such happenings is through much harsher sentences from the judicial system. Theo you were always one of our favorite hockey players-now more so than ever

  42. Theo, you are a hero!

  43. Opening this can of worm has got to be tough, but you are helping a lot of peeps. Way to go buddy.

  44. You shall learn the truth and the truth shall set you free. You should be congratulated in taking the first step. . . . God Bless.

  45. Graham James ruined my hockey career. I first met him at 15 at a spring hockey tournament. My coach said there was a guy picking the stars for the tournament and he wanted to meet me. I ended up on his junior hockey team that year.. He was like a wolf in sheep's clothing. One moment pouring attention on you and asking you to go to a movie and the next moment, getting angry and telling someone to injure you.. all based on whether you would hang out with him, go on a trip with him.. go to his apartment. I complained to trusted coaches about his behaviour but they laughed and said.. "Graham's a good guy.. you just have to play better." Finally, after two years, I quit his team, but I was the one who felt the shame. The shame of quitting. That summer of 1982 I bumped into Graham James at a movie theatre in downtown Winnipeg. I introduced him to my sister and her boyfriend.. I felt so uncomfortable seeing someone who had taken the fun out of a game I had loved. He looked a bit embarassed to see me.. almost as if I had 'caught' him at something. He was joking and laughing like a schoolboy with three 13 or 14 year-old kids wearing hockey jackets. Graham seemed to be in a particularly good mood and happy to see me. I looked at the crests on the boys jackets as we were introduced and could see that they were from rural Manitoba. Two of the jackets said 'Elkhorn' (Sheldon Kennedy and his brother), and perhaps the other boy was Theoren Fleury. He was showing the wide-eyed boys the City, winning them over. I just hoped I never would see him again and I never did.

  46. If only the scum who commit these acts knew how much their gratification is acid to our lives. Prayers and all good wishes to these players for their brave stand !

  47. You’re a brave man Mr Fleury. It must have been an epic struggle to convince yourself, or to be convinced to tell your story. Most men are convinced they’ll be seen as “less of a man” if they admit they’ve been taken advantage of, even if it was when they were a child. A child is a child, male or female. Any adult is automatically in a position of power over a child, and to know that there are adults that abuse this power, well, despair and profound sadness are good words, but cannot begin to describe the real depth of this feeling. It’s so difficult to even admit that you were ever in a position of such vulnerability….almost all of us never do. Thankyou.

  48. Graham James should still be in jail and certainly never allowed to coach again. Shame on the teams in Europe that know his background and still allow him near their children just so they can win one more stupid hockey game. Now that really is perverted. Good luck to all of the young men he molested and is still molesting. I am sure there are far more still living quietly with this hell. How sad.

  49. Every time you buy a drink of government allowed alcohol,remember what it did for this KNOWN case of child abuse.Alcohol is THE main ingredient in child abuse.Drunks doing it or such as in this case,drunken parents allowing it.It`s simply the most dnagerous drug on the planet,because the government makes it`s living from it`s sales tax.and this is what it buys.

  50. I wish I could see you play again theo, it's too bad the flames didn't take you back, I hope another one does, don't give up!

  51. Good luck.Theo,your story really is a awaking,for Parents to pay more attention &protection for their children,in any instituitions ,Church's, any sport facilitys, you are a brave man to tell your Story,I always admired you as a player,you have been a Icon,to many people on the Ice & NHL,but I Beleive you are a bigger Icon,to come out to help many others around the Globe & along with your freind Kennedy,both of you can help so many .You are the winner in our hearts.

  52. The saddest thing about this story is that it's only the tip of the iceberg. You have to know that there is the same sort of abuse going on even as we speak. I hope to God Fleury's story gives other boys the courage to speak up NOW. God keep you Theo.

  53. The truth at last . Theo , now you might recover . It was not your fault.

  54. Theoren, likely the toughest challenge you ever faced and the greatest reward you will ever receive will come from letting the truth be known. Thanks for sharing your story.

  55. When I saw the video footage of Sheldon Kennedy going into court hearings, Fleury was with him, but they had digitized him out of focus. You could tell it was him though, they had said it was another NHLer and he was almost a head shorter. He'd played on the same team, so who else could it have been. I knew this for a long time, no matter if Theo had admitted it or not. It must feel better to finally get it off your shoulders. Congrats to you Theo, it takes a much bigger man to come out and finally point the finger at the disgusting pervert that James was and is. Too bad they don't look into these volunteer coaches much closer as we are giving our most valuable assets to them to mold. Our children.

  56. Your inner strenght will get you through this. Your family, friends & fans are there for you. I first met you at female hockey function a couple of months back and was impressed with your poise and confidence, this will get you through it all. Your eyes are still reflecting saddness, you are probably in need to finishing this episode, closure and that may mean you need to press charges against this so called human Graham James. Do it, It doesnt matter who is supporting you or not, it is the finishing touch to this horrific event in your life. If ever the phrase comes into "Play" its "Game On" put that creep away again and may other players abused by this sicko come forward and do the same.

  57. I couldn't stop crying after I read this.

  58. My husband, daughter and I met Theo when he started playing for the Black Hawks, at some practice sessions. I had a feeling he had issues, and that his problems ran deep. I even wrote to him way back then to express concern. There was something about him that reminded me of my brother and I didn’t want to see him end up like he did (deceased at 33)

    I wish him lots of peace now. It was very brave of him to finally get those secrets out. Hopefully the road ahead will be a smoother one.

  59. SAD – so sad – child abuse is a major epidemic in our society – affecting many many boys & girls – coaches, teachers, ministers, rabbis, priests & the largest group of abusers – family members!!

    We need to all look out for the little ones – abusers are almost always known to the children & their parents. They are not strangers – but those in a position of trust!! God help all of us who have looked the other way & ran from the truth out of fear!! Please Canadians wake up & protect the little ones!!

  60. why don't some of Graham's die-hard friends step up and say something? worried that your dark sides might be exposed also? those that provided character witnesses at the Sheldon Kennedy episode.. any comments now? any guts? or do you also have things you want to keep under cover? gay men control junior hockey team. I guess that wouldn't sound too good? not too macho.

  61. Hey Theo we are all behind you while you are on your brave journey.

  62. Thank you Theo for being brave and telling your secret to the world. This happens to boys more often than people would like to admit. We here about the sexual abuse of women more often. But with us men its a difficult subject and most who have been abused feel ashamed and never come forward. I applaud your bravery and for exposing this hideous side of life. God bless you and may you find comfort and solice in the knowledge that we are all brothers and many of us have been through similar experiences and you gave us a voice.

  63. Theo, you are my hero for many reasons. Particularly for coming out of the shadows and encouraging other men who have been abused to seek help. For we victims/survivors, life is filled with challenges and pain. And we cannot unring the bell. Hopefully all parents will read your book and be educated/warned about the potential for all boys who are under the supervision of coaches and men in positions in authority who could alter the lives of their children forever. God bless you Theo and all the best to you.

  64. Theo

    I have always enjoyed watching you play…you certainly were a sparkplug for the Flames etal. I am so glad that you have the courage it takes to come forward with this. Sheldon Kennedy and you have paved the way for others to admit this when it first happens not years later. I am so sorry for both of you that you were intimidated into keeping this quiet. I so hope that if any other young players find themselves in the same situation that they will have the courage to come forward immediately and hopefully escape some of the deep wounds that you and Sheldon have suffered. God Bless you for coming forward and taking it out of the closet and into the light where others can see the long term effects of this horrible crime.

  65. No one should have to go through what you went through. On the other hand I find it very strange you would hire Graham James when you were part owner of the Hitmen.

  66. Some people are mad that Fleury took him toCalgary but it wasn't until James was hired to the Hitmen organization that he was finally put in jail. Almost immediately the kids on the team were linked up to a policeman, before anything even hit the press. I wonder if this was Fleury's way of finally getting him put in jail without having to come out publically about it. The WHL couldn't very well continue to ignore the problem when it was right in their backyard. (this is assuming that the WHL had heard rumors of James behavior already). Maybe there was a method to his madness. Maybe Fleury knew something would finally be done if James was dumped on the WHL's doorstep. Don't be so quick to judge the victim. Good luck to everyone James hurt and is still hurting.

  67. I feel for Theo and Sheldon,it is heartbreaking what they were subjected to at the hands of a power mongering pediophile like James masquerading as a concerned and caring hockey coach. The fact that any minor hockey coach should have any kind of real impact on whether a kid makes the NHL or not really bothers me. That opens the door for any kind of maniac coach not just a pediophile. My son was once coach by a cop who repeatedly told the boys that anything that went on in the dressing room was not to be told to the parents, and that is so not ok with me, and this creep led the parents and kids to think he was the path to the NHL as well. We spend yrs telling kids to tell us about anything like this happening to them yet they are told by someone in authority they can't talk about it. Minor hockey must do a better job of screening these creeps to keep our children safe.

  68. I didn't say this in my earlier post I wish you the best of luck on your return Theo, you deserve a second chance and I do hope you can make the most of it. Congrats also on your coming out against James and finally freeing yourself of the demons that have plagued your life. Good luck at staying clean and sober, my hope is you haven't done something in your past that will come back to haunt you health wise in the future. One day at time!

  69. I always knew, from the moment I looked in Theo's eyes at a maple leaf practice, that he had suffered the sexual torment and abuse. So called 'victims' can always see the hurt in the eyes of another 'victim', and as someone who also suffered sexual abuse as a child, i knew that this man, his sweet soul and his sad compelling eyes were shading the truth. I am sad that your life has been such a struggle…mine continues to be and will probably never end…we are 'victims' till the end but you have endured and grown and spat in the face of this evil monster…good luck theo…we are all cheering for your life to be blessed with peace and happiness…

  70. A friend of mine was on the Moose Jaw hockey team with Theo and Sheldon. My friend was pulled from the powerplay, because Theo wanted to end up 3rd on the team in points (75) friend (71). Sleeping with the boss works lol.

  71. Good Luck Theo
    Have always admired your spunk & enjoyed watching you
    play. You are the greatest.
    Take care & remember you are now free of that horrible person
    who took so much away from you – don't let it destroy you anymore.

  72. Life has been a struggle in more ways than one and hopefully you will find peace within yourself. Your life has a whole new meaning now and a fresh start for yourself and your family. Best of Luck.

  73. Mr. Fleury, I lived in Swift Current when you and then Graham James were in the WHL – All I remember is what a star you were when you were with the Moose Jaw Warriors … I wonder how many people in the hockey world knew and could have stopped it – but I remember being in high school with the Broncos – they were so vulnerable, the coach had all power … Your story and Sheldon Kennedy’s makes it clear that as a people, Canadians have to be much more protective of the children we treat like men that play junior on the way to the big show … Despite all of your personal problems, you were a great player … I wish you all the best in your recovery … And I hope the WHL, the OHL, and the CHL takes note – we have to be more protective of teenagers growing up in the hockey world … May someone like Graham James never happen again … Good Luck ..

  74. Good luck Theo and Sheldon, I was a Flames season ticket holder when both of you played and I enjoyed every moment and marveled at the passion you had for the game of Hockey. Charge Graham James with Pedophilia and lets get this scum bag put away for good were he can not hurt any one else.

    Good luck and thanks for the stellar play while a member of the Flames.

  75. Fantastic article,I commend Theo & Sheldon for having the courage to come forward.Unfortunately not many men come forward with the sexual abuse they suffered especially in the sports leagues,you could be instramental in helping children & adults come forward.I wish both you and Sheldon all the best in your future endeavours Theo.

  76. Only a mind as sick as the pedophile Graham James could write such rubbish…what does it do for you to make such a pathetic statement…grow up…if you had suffered the abuse that these men had endured…you could never say such immature and cruel things…watch the fifth estate tonight…and if you have an ounce of human decency…you will weep…shame on you.

  77. I was also abused by a coach ages 11 to 12 he did the same things sleep overs movies skiing he was like a dad as mine was not around much the first time i was invited to stay i wondered why others all ran to other rooms that night and more later i begam a victim and an addict and confused sexually I am a member of a step program which helps my addictions but how do you really get over or deal with the sexual abuse i look foreword to reading your book!U R LOOKIN GREAT!!!!!!!!

  78. I want to acknowledge Theo Fleury for taking a fearless, moral inventory of himself and for exposing his abuser Graham James. Boys who are abused suffer in a silence that is molded out of shame and fear. So to find the courage to speak out is nothing short of monumental. With 1 out of every 4 or 6 men, on average in Canada being the victim of sexual abuse when they were boys – there are many, many more of us out there who need to talk about this and get support for what we are feeling.
    Guys like Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury make it okay for more men to share what has happened. An the more we talk about it and share – the less likely that these same abuses will happen to our sons. I know, I've been abused as a boy and I now counsel men who are looking to put their lives back together after the damaging impact of the sexual abuse they suffered as boys.
    Way to go Theo!

  79. I will never let anyone touch my children. I will never ignore or turn a blind eye because I am not certain of the outcome. Children's minds are so fragile, and for someone you trust as an adult to lead you – betrays you – that can haunt and ruin your entire life. I know, and I will never, ever let it happen. I will be there at every moment, watching, ensuring that they are safe. I'm not blaming your parents Theo, I think they had their own problems – and back then, I think life was a little different. It's only that you and your family have to be the ones to suffer so that we could all learn – and I am sorry that you have to be the one. I will take a page from Theo's book as a parent and play an absolutely vigilant role in my children's lives as their protector.

  80. Go get that jerk Graham and make him pay big time. There is always someone for him to pray on as long as he is free!!

  81. I'm glad that Theo Fleury is healing now…

    I too have been suffering with such an abuse – in 1982 – just three months after I turned 15 – I was molested [over the course of 2 months] by a moose Jaw city police officer and what did the Sask In-justice department charge him with? Contributing to juvenile delinquency! Yup I had to go through the original abuse and later the abuse by the system. At least the Moose Jaw police service fired him and – he never got his job back. I hope he rots in hell one day. I have been permanently marred by this abuse.

  82. mr fleury,youre stiry inspired me to come out with some abuse that I have suffered bye a family member who now is dead,I'm 36 years of age soon to be 37 and my life isnt getting any easier,I dont know what to do I live in edmonton I'm from nova scotia I was abused again last year while serving remand time for a crime that I did not committ I was found not guilty and suffered abuse while I was in there and nobody seems to care what has happened to me I have a son who is just turned 2 and his mother accused me of rapping her and I was found not guilty in court for this while I was in jail waiting for my trial is when I suffered more sexuall abuse and I have brought it to the attention of authourities and nobody cares I dont know if youre going to see this message but if you do and you could help me in anyway at all it would be greatly appreciated

  83. I admire your courage in speaking openly about the molestation, mental and physical abuse that you suffered from this man who was entrusted with so much power and influence over your life. How truly awful that the NHL closed it eyes to such atrocities. Praying that you find peace and happiness and satisfaction from knowing that your story will have a tremendous impact on how officials in the world of sports respond to children who suffer the same abuse in the future. Thank you for your story, and for saving other children from the same abuses that you suffered. Your story will help to open peoples eyes to other child predators preying on the trust of parents and children. Wishing you all the best. God Bless you.

  84. You and Sheldon Kennedy have been through HELL. It takes a villiage to raise a child. I know the people in the world of sports know what is going on and they don't do anything about it because they have their own interest at heart. Parents who abuse their children and allow their children to be abused have their own interest at heart. Parents, coaches and the people in the world of sports need to be made accountable for their actions. Children who have been abused need to talk to someone at the Rape Crisis Centre or a community centre like Cups.

  85. I think the contribution of Theo Fleury is very much higher in each and every match. Amazing player to watch…

  86. Hi Theo I was always a fan of yours and became a fan of Sheldon Kennedy also after he came forward.Well thanks to you guys I am seeking help now. 44 years ago I was abused for only a six week period and even once is too much however I am getting help now I can talk about it and stopped blaming myself.However the man that abused me is now dead but he abused many after me and that is what I am dealing with the fact I didn't come out sooner about what that man did to me when I was 13 years old.I will be working with VCARS in my home town Timmins Ontario when I am ready.

  87. congratulations theorn, It takes a lot to finally confront people like this especially after so long. i wish you the best.

  88. Theo. I know you probably wont ever read this but I fee it important to tell you that you are not alone.I was sexually assaulted by my older brother.My sister, I come to find out was abused as well by the same person.The difference was, I spoke out to my parents immediately while she was more reluctant to speak up.She hated me for years because she was so ashamed of not coming forward sooner. She resented me deeply.Our relationship was one of anger, resentment and bitterness.It's only as adults that we've been able to talk about it.
    I'm not going to lie to you. I still am deeply hurt by her shabby treatment as a younger sister, no matter what the circumstance. But I have to try to not only understand her view but also find it within myself to forgive my brother who has never done anything to reconcile his damage.
    I do understand you Theo. I know the shame and lasting damage it can do to your soul. My first marriage ended because I had a very difficult time with my own sexuality as a result.

  89. I wanted to tell you that I am trying my best not to let it own me. My sister and I are very different people and I guess there will always be things I don't understand about her. I will never understand why he did what he did.I admire how you stood up to be counted and stopped the cycle. Like I said to my sister who lamented over leaving it secret for so long….you're here now. You've told the truth and now it's in our rear view mirror.
    Take good care Theo.
    All the best
    ajs macdonald

  90. This is wonder full Article and surely it makes realize each and everyone who read this. Thanks for providing so fantastic and sweet suggestions ….i really appreciate it.

    bellows in chennai

  91. Good luck Theo, This is a nice article and i hope for everything will be OK now

    bellows in india

  92. theo your a beauty and im doing an essay on you i could use a hand. but im sure your extremley busy.

  93. Canadian Laws are based in the Babylonian Talmud that condones the abuse of children.  Our laws are unlawful and Judges are for the most part unethical, inhuman themselves working for the same puppet-masters that follow this evil book.  Look into the Franklin scandal where you can see how Bush Sr. was a regular pedophile customer.  All these crimes are being committed with the knowledge of the Talmudic Khazarian International bankers such as Rothschild, Rockefeller and the rest of their monstrous criminals, such as the Queen of England and the Vatican. 
    Remember what they did to the aboriginal children and still continue to do.  Many were murdered and buried in secret in the grounds of churches and residential schools.

    If you read the Babylonian Talmud you will be disgusted with the filth of what the Pharisees wrote in this Satanic book, for instance that it is alright to have sex with animals, dead bodies and children. These Pharasies were able to deceive the Hebrews of old and eliminate the other religious groups such as the Essenes, and centralize their Satanic religion making it the only one in order to brainwash the ordinary people who were kept ignorant so that they would be easily manipulated.
    Didn’t Christ called them ” blind guides” and that ”…you are of your father, the Devil”?
    They abuse their own children not just the gentiles for Vicky Polin went on Oprah to expose that her own parents engaged in Satanic ritualistic practices.  In the Talmud there is the blood ritual where children, preferably, of seven years old are sacrificed to Baal-Lucifer. They drink their blood and some eat their flesh. 

    Dr. Joy Silberg also discovered that this is increasing and being encouraged by the powers-that-be. 

  94. What a great story, I’m doing an assignment on you Theo. 

  95. I feel the extreme humiliation and discrase that you are feeling today Theo..I too am a victum of sexual assault, at the age of 16 in a public school here in Calgary, I have had some counselling, and was encouraged to put forth charges to this night mare/predator who was/is in a postition to be around young teens…I watch this case and think ‘what the f* for’ so all can see my face, and laugh and point the finger some more..Canada is a Great country, but SO lacking to defend those who are innocent, its sicenking..I hope, I hope, the inmates where graham ( i refuse to use caps, no respect) gets what he deserves while he is incarserated…i will never vote again in Canada as long as I live, this judical system, and the so called advocates of the citizens is ridiculous!!!

  96. Theo I hope you read this. I know your pain I also was taken advantage of as a young boy.I didn’t have the balls to report my abuser.Thank you for having the courage.I hope Graham thinks about what he did and never sleeps again,until his final sleep lets hope he suffers until then.

  97. Thank you, I hope it help other people to come forward. But I have question for you how does little girl of 6 years old get help when no one believe her. This person even threaten to killer with her and still nothing was done. But they need proof of it going on

  98. I also was raped from 6months to 19 yrs.old.I still have the raging monster in me. To many enablers… I am 54 now and am trying to find a retreat ..or a daily tharapy,I am on the phone so much that it goes in circles. I became an alchoholic and very mean. a..married three times and trying to find some common gound with the man I love now. H eha helped me find some peace of mind..but he walks in a mine field eveyday with me. God Bless your strenghth ,and to the others who became victums of that coach.Sorry can’t say his name ,it puts a very bad taste in my mouth and mind. Thank you for your story,it helps all us who are trying to susvive,thrive. Twelve step program…hmmmm..have to look into that. Money maybe an issue but have to try.My best to you all! Sherry

  99. I just watched Theroen on Star Painting a few days ago, I admire men that can come forward and disclose their abuse. It takes courage to face whats happened to them. And for them to come out publicaly it takes even more courage to do that. Thanks Theo for your bravery, I’m sure it has helped others to do the same thing. And not only coming forward but getting the help you needed to heal from it. You are a warrior on and off the ice.

  100. I appreciate what you are doing. Sex offenders should be punished for all the pain and suffering they have caused to many children in the world. No child can forget the pain and torment of what happened to them at such a young age. For some, it messes up there mind and thoughts of life as they get older. It’s a day by day struggle to get rid of the images because only you, yourself knows what happened. If you don’t have any support, you tend to break down (doing drugs and drinking to try to make it go away) and that’s where I completely understand. People should realize that if a sex offender sexually abuses a child, they are more likely to go ahead and do it again. They all should be locked away.

  101. You are brave and your experience has and will help so many young people. You bring a tear to my eye.

  102. Theo, I admire your fortitude. I was also abused as a child and I came forward about it to my family. My father was my abuser and my mom was so conditioned that she actually stood by and watched. Not the sex, but the beating I recieved for protesting to his advances. When my dad last tried to molest me while I slept, I was still awake and was cognicant of his intentions. It’s been a tough ride to get through the crap but I’m a strong beeotch. (I said that to sound cool)… I hope you know that you are loved by many. I fricken hate hockey and I’m not impressed with stuff. I just want you to know how much you mean to the world. Keep scoring. PS my sons love you.

  103. Thank you so much Theo and I luv your COURAGE and to think that you brought about change and awareness. AWESOME!! You know you’re not alone and there are many of us out there. Good Luck with your book and video and all the best in your recovery. I’ve found too, for myself, I’ll probably never get over the sexual, physical and emotional abuse, but learned to “accept” it knowing too that I can’t change any of it. Once I realized it wasn’t my fault and “accepting” it all, looking in the mirror and accepting ME (warts n all) wow! turned my life around completely and I could for once in my life cognitively change my thinking, stop being the victim, think more positively and had the power and enlightenment to create many awesome changes in my life experiencing so many lessons. Briefly, I remember quite some time ago someone telling me that we’re all here on this beautiful Planet as spiritual beings having a human experience. wow! that’s sooooo powerful for me! ((((((((((HUGS))))))) Theo and all the best in your new well deserved journey!

Sign in to comment.