Former NHL great Theoren Fleury is set to release a book next week that reveals he was sexually abused by junior hockey coach Graham James in the 1980s.
The new tell-all book, Playing with Fire, by the former Calgary Flames captain is to be released Wednesday. It delves into the 41-year-old retired hockey player's past.
The Stanley Cup and Olympic gold-medal winner's problems with drinking, drugs and gambling were common knowledge, but his confessions of sexual abuse — alleged to have started in the summer of 1982, when James took Fleury and other boys on a trip to Disneyland, and to have continued for two years — is a new revelation.
The two met in the summer of 1981 when James was an instructor at a hockey school in Brandon, Man., when Fleury was 13.
Two years later, James drafted Fleury to play with a midget team in Winnipeg he coached. In the book, Fleury tells of how James insisted he sleep at his house two nights a week over a two-year period that included the player's rookie season in 1984 with Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League.
Fleury told CBC's The Fifth Estate, in an interview to air on Oct. 16, that he doesn't want to become the poster boy for abuse by James, but spoke out so others with similar stories would feel comfortable coming forward.
Fleury speaks out
The Fifth Estate's Bob McKeown will air a one-hour interview on CBC-TV with Theoren Fleury on Oct. 16.
"You try to understand, you know, what's going on but you know, you're so afraid, you know. You're so afraid that, you know, if I tell somebody what's going to happen to my hockey career, you know what I mean," Fleury said.
"Because I was so focused on, on you know, getting out of Russell [Manitoba], you know. I was so focused on that that I was probably willing to do whatever it took to, you know, to make it.
"And ah yeah, it was a scary time, scary time. And you know, very confused about the whole situation," Fleury said.
Father had suspicions
Wally Fleury, the former player's father, told CBC News he suspected something was wrong with his son, and that the boy was struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, but he never knew why.
"He never mentioned anything about Graham James, but through Sheldon Kennedy, we knew he had to be involved too," said Wally Fleury, who still lives in Russell.
James received a 3½-year prison sentence in 1997 after pleading guilty to sexually abusing two players — former National Hockey League forward Sheldon Kennedy and another, unnamed plaintiff.
Fleury, who played 16 seasons in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Flames, will tell his story on CBC Television's The Hour on Thursday.