James apologizes to victims, hockey
WINNIPEG—“The most hated man in hockey” stood in a courtroom yesterday and apologized for the sexual abuse which shattered the trust of the hockey world and the lives of some of its most promising players.
“I stand before you with regret, a word which has been described as insight that comes one day too late,” former junior coach Graham James read from a prepared statement at his sentencing hearing.
“I apologize to the Canadian hockey public whose interest in the national game should be found in celebration, not trouble like what I’ve caused.”
Former NHL’er Sheldon Kennedy, an earlier victim of James’ abuse, rejected the apology.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” he said. “Really, Graham James is a liar.
“He’s been a liar since the day I met him.”
James apologized to the players he coached, whose only motivation was the love of hockey and the desire to win.
“Parents expected their sons to be safe,” he said. “Not all were. I apologize to the parents and the families of those most personally affected.
“I knew you. I liked you and I abused the trust you put in me. The fault is mine alone.”
James saved the most direct apology for last.
“Finally, and most importantly, I apologize to Theoren Fleury and to Todd Holt, against whom I have offended,” he said.
“I wanted the best for you but I did not give you my best.
“My actions forfeited our friendship. It is sad irony that it is you, being among the persons I liked the most, today like me the least,” he continued. “I am deeply sorry. I was wrong.”
James, 59, pleaded guilty in December to sexually abusing Fleury and Holt when they played for him in the WHL in the 1980s and ’90s.
It’s his third time before the courts for similar incidents. He pleaded guilty to sexual abuse against Kennedy in 1997.
He served about 18 months of a three-and-a-half year sentence before he got out of jail in 2000 and dropped out of public view.
While still in custody, he received a concurrent sentence after pleading guilty to a similar charge involving another boy.
Crown counsel Coleen McDuff asked that James serve six years in prison. Defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg asked that he be given a conditional sentence of 12-18 months.
Justice Catherine Carlson reserved her decision to March 20.