Theoren Fleury had a hard time getting the words out just hours after learning a Canada-wide warrant was on the way for convicted sex offender Graham James.
“I knew it was coming,” an emotional Fleury said during a news conference Wednesday. “It's been an interesting day so far because I have all kinds of feelings going through my mind.
“But I've also prepared myself for this day and this moment.”
Fleury's tell-all autobiography last year contained new sexual abuse allegations against James, who coached Fleury and fellow NHLer Sheldon Kennedy as teens. It was Kennedy and an unnamed individual who finally went to police in 1996.
Evan Roitenberg, lawyer for James, confirmed Wednesday the former coach faces several new charges of alleged sexual assault dating from the late 1970s through the early 1990s.
Eloquent at times and rambling at others during a 20-minute session with reporters, Fleury said he did not want to get into specifics on the James case.
“I'm human too. Of course I want to see something happen,” Fleury said. “But in the end it has to happen the right way and it has to be well thought out and all the evidence has to be gathered.
“So that when we do get to the point where we have to take it in front of the justice system, that justice is found and justice is served.”
Fleury chose to focus on the future instead of the past, adding that finding ways to help victims of sexual assault is bringing a new purpose to his life.
“I'm OK to stand out in front right now,” Fleury said. “But as we move forward, I'd like to have more people standing and walking beside me.”
With his red Calgary Flames jersey hanging on the wall behind him, Fleury spoke in the television studio where he's competing on the CBC-TV show “Battle of the Blades.”
He said the only reason he agreed to appear on the show was to support The Men's Project charity, which helps men who have suffered childhood sexual and physical abuse.
“I care about all the victims that are out there, that are living their lives in horror every single day,” Fleury said. “And they have nowhere to turn and nowhere to go.”
James was sentenced to 3 1 / 2years in prison in 1997 after he pleaded guilty to hundreds of sexual assaults involving two teenage hockey players under his influence.
James was granted a pardon by the National Parole Board in 2007, has coached internationally and is believed to be living in Mexico. He has not commented publicly on the new developments. The latest allegations have not been proven in court.
Fleury said he went public to spread a message of hope, strength and redemption. He added that during his book tour, many men leaned over to him during signings and whispered, “Me too.”
“I've said this many times, that this is the biggest epidemic that we have on the planet — bar none,” Fleury said. “And something has to be done.”
Fleury, looking comfortable in running shoes and a purple and black track suit, praised Winnipeg police for being sympathetic and working to ensure that evidence against James “sticks.”
Fleury, 42, also thanked his family and supporters for being there for him over the years. He hopes that others will get the same support.
“It is possible to get through this,” Fleury said. “It is possible to have peace and happiness and joy.”
Fleury, who won Olympic gold for Canada at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, broke into the NHL with the Flames in 1988-'89. He also played for the Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.
The five-foot-six native of Oxbow, Sask., recorded 1,088 points (455 goals, 633 assists) in 1,084 career regular-season games. He had 79 points (34-45) in 77 career playoff games.
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