The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/12/11 at 02:58 PM ET
It is widely assumed that the un-named second victim to which Graham James pled guilty to sexually assaulting was former Red Wings forward Sheldon Kennedy, and the Associated Press’s Kimberly Hefling (via the Detroit News) reports that Kennedy, who faced his own demons and substance abuse issues which derailed his NHL career, will testify before the U.S. legislature regarding the sexual abuse of children in sports programs. It’s an awful thing to report but there is one thing worse than talking about this horrific issue—not talking about it:
A former National Hockey League player who rocked the Canadian sports world with sexual abuse accusations against a former coach is the marque witness at a congressional hearing Tuesday examining such abuse in the wake of the Penn State scandal. The story of Sheldon Kennedy, whose NHL career began in 1989 with the Detroit Red Wings, was back in the news last week after his former coach in junior hockey pleaded guilty to sexual assaults involving two other former players, including NHL star Theoren Fleury. The coach, Graham James, already served more than three years in prison for abusing other players he coached, including Kennedy. James was quietly pardoned for his crimes in 2007, leading to public outcry.
The junior hockey system Kennedy played in is a prime steppingstone to the NHL. Many players between the ages 16 of 20 live far away from home with local host families, known as billets. Junior coaches hold strong sway over their lives and futures in the sport. Kennedy has said he didn’t tell his teammates about the abuse for fear they would conclude he was gay. He has said he was afraid to tell his mother about the abuse for fear she would pull him off his team.
Kennedy is expected to discuss the effects of abuse and what it’s like to be in an organization that didn’t do enough to protect teens. Kennedy, who later co-founded an advocacy group, has said previously that when there’s a crisis like the one at Penn State, it creates a platform for change, and he’s hopeful positive changes can be made as awareness is increased.
Continued, and kudos to Kennedy for continuing to relentlessly advocate for a very worthy cause.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.