WINNIPEG – Winnipeg police say they are investigating the sexual assault complaint filed by former NHL star Theo Fleury against his former junior hockey coach Graham James.
They say they are looking into the allegations which allegedly took place during the 1980s.
“Members of the Winnipeg Police Service Sex Crimes Unit have entered into an investigation as result of a compliant filed by Mr. Theoren Fleury,” police said in a statement Friday.
“The investigation will include consultation with police agencies outside of the province and in the United States.”
Police say they won’t release any more information about the allegations or the investigation until it is concluded.
Fleury recently wrote in his autobiography that James repeatedly sexually abused him when he was a young player.
He posted a message on his website that he was filing a complaint against James but declined to speak further until the investigation wraps up.
“While it’s in the hands of the authorities, it’s best that he doesn’t talk about it,” said Fleury’s lawyer Hersh Wolch from Calgary.
“He’s made a complaint with the city police and it’s now in the hands of the police and, ultimately, the prosecutors.”
The situation has been very tough on his client, Wolch said. Fleury doesn’t know how long the investigation will take or when he will hear anything from police.
“I expect the police will work diligently and we’ll hear in good course,” Wolch said. “We just have to be patient and wait and let them do their jobs.”
James pleaded guilty in 1997 to repeatedly sexually assaulting two teenage players between 1984 and 1995. He was arrested after Sheldon Kennedy, then an NHL player, came forward with allegations of abuse while playing for him in junior.
James was eventually convicted in 1997 of abusing Kennedy and one other unnamed player and received three-and-a-half years jail.
Fleury said he struggled with the decision to lodge a criminal complaint against James.
“I have been reflecting on this a long time,” he said on his website. “I wanted to make the biggest impact on preventing this kind of thing from happening in the future.”
In his book “Playing With Fire,” Fleury said the sexual abuse he suffered as a teenager transformed him from a confused young man into an angry, self-loathing boozer who blew millions of dollars on cards, drugs and lap dancers.
Fleury, born in Oxbow, Sask., but raised in Russell, Man., played more than a thousand games in the NHL for the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks before drugs and alcohol problems forced him out.
He attempted an NHL comeback with the Flames last fall but was eventually cut and retired from hockey.
In his book, Fleury talked about being recruited at 13 to play for James – first in Winnipeg, then in Moose Jaw, Sask.
He wrote that James would visit and abuse him on the road – warning him that disclosure would destroy any hope of him playing pro hockey.
He alleged James took him and future NHLer Sheldon Kennedy with him on a road trip to Disneyland, where he said James would take turns molesting them in motel rooms.
Fleury said he submitted to the abuse because he didn’t know who would believe him or whether hockey officials would circle the wagons to protect James.
-With files from Shannon Montgomery in Calgary