A former victim of convicted Maple Leaf Gardens child molester Gordon Stuckless returned to the arena for the first time today, reclaiming the rink as the new home ice for his junior A hockey club.
Allan Donnan was among dozens of boys sexually assaulted decades ago by the former Gardens usher in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.
Now a grown man, Donnan returned Saturday afternoon to the arena that has haunted him for years, this time to watch the puck drop at the historic venue as the general manager of the Toronto Predators junior A hockey team.
'So much was locked in this building and today we unlocked the door, and we came back in, and we came in the front door.' —Allan Donnan, survivor of sex abuse and general manager of the Toronto Predators
"The young men that walked in with me today, said, 'We got your back, we got your back,' and that made it all worthwhile," he said.
The simple pre-game ceremony held great meaning for Donnan. His team will play 42 games this season at the beloved arena, which has been renamed the Mattamy Athletic Centre and serves as a sports complex used by Ryerson University athletes.
"So much was locked in this building and today we unlocked the door, and we came back in, and we came in the front door," he said.
Brother of abuse victim in the crowd
Seeing the start of the hockey season is also a new beginning for Donnan, who has said the puck drop will be a celebration.
- Convicted Maple Leaf Gardens sex offender faces more charges
- Stuckless arrested on new sex assault charges
In the crowd was Gary Kruze, whose late brother, Martin Kruze, first came forward with the sex abuse allegations against Stuckless in the late 1990s.
"This building now, it feels a lot better than it did 14 years ago, it feels cleaner and a safer place for people to bring their children," Gary Kruze said.
Stuckless pleaded guilty to 24 counts of sexual and indecent assault in 1997. He was sentenced to two years less a day in prison, serving just two-thirds of his sentence.
Martin Kruze was reportedly so distraught over Stuckless's sentence that the abuse victim committed suicide days after the sentence was handed down.
Stuckless, who has spent the last several years under house arrest, also faces 98 new charges lodged against him earlier this year by several more men who say they were abused in Toronto and York Region between the 1960s and 1985.
Stuckless is due back in court in April for a preliminary hearing.