Forner hockey star Theoren Fleury is calling for the firing of a Montreal Gazette sportswriter who called the him “hypocritical” in a column over recent remarks Fleury made about the justice system’s handling of Graham James, the former junior hockey coach who sexually abused Fleury and other players.
In an article that appeared in the Gazette and other newspapers Tuesday, Pat Hickey called out Fleury for saying Canada’s justice system didn’t do enough to keep James behind bars. Fleury cited James’ pardon after being convicted of sexual assault in 1997 against three players, including another former National Hockey League player, Sheldon Kennedy. James was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison and given a pardon in 2007.
But Hickey wrote in his column that Fleury only went public with his allegations against James more than a decade later in his autobiography, Playing With Fire.
Hickey said it was “hypocritical that Fleury can blast the justice system for giving James two months of freedom when he provided his former coach with years.”
A website for Fleury posted a statement — under the headline “This is why no one comes forward” — that called on the public to “demand” from the Gazette that “Pat Hickey be fired immediately.”
“We find it very distressing to hear anyone, much less a columnist for a major newspaper, take the side of a known convicted rapist by calling Theo Fleury an enabler,” said the statement.
Hickey used the term “enabler” when recounting how Fleury was a business partner of James — Fleury was a co-owner of the junior hockey team the Calgary Hitmen while James was coach — when Kennedy’s allegations became public.
“Here was someone who had suffered abuse at the hands of Graham James,” Hickey wrote. “Here was someone who knew that James had abused other players. Here was someone who was exposing other children to the same sexual predator.
“Fleury has been through enough counselling to know there’s a word for someone who acts in this fashion — enabler.”
Kennedy himself was a minor investor in the Hitmen hockey team.
In comparing the two abused former NHLers, Hickey stated that “Fleury didn’t show the same courage as Kennedy,” based on how much longer it took for Fleury to come forward.
Fleury’s rebuttal said: “Pat Hickey is more interested in attempting to pit the abused against one another than in demanding justice. This column makes all other pedophiles rub their hands in glee; they have found a new hero in Pat Hickey.”