TORONTO – Theo Fleury says he waited until he was strong enough mentally before going to police to file a sexual assault complaint against Graham James.
The former NHL star, speaking Wednesday ahead of the Conn Smythe Dinner in support of Easter Seals Kids, revealed on his website two weeks ago that he had made the complaint against his former junior hockey coach.
Winnipeg police are now investigating the allegations of sexual abuse contained in Fleury’s recent autobiography “Playing With Fire.” The 41-year-old Fleury believes the healing he’s done has prepared him for the fallout.
“That was just the process,” Fleury said in his first public comments since issuing his statement. “I don’t do anything that’s not well thought out, but I’m out of it now. I’ve filed my complaint and the police are doing what they have to do and I support them, they were excellent in the interview process.
“More will be revealed, as I say.”
No charges have been laid yet but Fleury said Winnipeg police keep him updated on the status of their investigation. He says he has no information on James’ current whereabouts.
James has not responded publicly to Fleury’s allegations.
The former coach pleaded guilty in 1997 to repeatedly sexually assaulting two teenage players between 1984 and 1995. He was arrested after Sheldon Kennedy came forward with allegations of abuse while playing for him in junior.
Convicted of abusing Kennedy and one other unidentified player, James was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail.
Fleury says he wasn’t prepared to come forward and testify in court then, but is now.
“I’ve done the work,” he said. “I’m sure that there’s a lot of people out there that would have thought I might have gone off the deep end going through this process, having to re-dredge up all these things, but I can tell you I did the work before and that’s the reason why I didn’t jump on the Sheldon Kennedy bandwagon, because I just wasn’t ready and it wouldn’t have been effective. I needed to go through my own process to get to where I am today and because I’m in a strong place, we can go and help so many other people.”
Fleury says he’s working with a couple of groups, one based in Ottawa and another in California, on ways to improve education about sexual assault and create more resources for victims to draw on.
Another reason he came forward was to help remove “the stigma” from it.
“The emails that I receive on a daily basis would blow your minds about people who have had similar experiences, don’t know where to start, have been to therapy for 10 years and have no relief,” said Fleury, who added that he responds to, “every one. Just to say ‘hey, you’re not alone,’ try to support them in any way I can. I’m not a psychologist but I try to point them in the right direction and start their process.”