He calls it his “mask” and it is an impressive creation to behold.
He is 6 feet 7 inches, dark and handsome in the graduation photograph from Princeton University which he attended on an academic scholarship. A gifted athlete, he comes from four generations of a Prairie family where the men, all tall and dark, starred in professional football and hockey.
He played Varsity Blues hockey – goaltender – for the University of Toronto before graduating in law in 1989.
He worked for the city’s leading law firms before serving as general counsel and director of corporate development at CanWest Global Communications, later becoming general counsel for Cookie Jar Entertainment, a television producer of such international children’s hits as Arthur, Caillou and Inspector Gadget. He appears to have it all: prestige, power, money, connections, family, a fine home with swimming pool in a sought-after address nears the shores of Lake Ontario.
Now let him peel back that “mask” to reveal the failed marriage, the added body weight that he now believes was a subconscious defence strategy to make himself unattractive, the fact that, at 48, he no longer works but is on extended leave while he goes through therapy and sorts out where, between today’s reality and yesterday’s mask, he will find himself.
No one ever knew that there were years in which he would secretly consult train schedules and investigate the tracks in and around town in search of a convenient place to end it all. No one saw him that dark July night four years ago when he crawled out onto the edge of a bridge over Sixteen Mile Creek and sat until dawn considering “the pros and cons of life.” He could find no “pros” but also felt he could find no courage, crawling back from the jump to walk the long distance home and weep in his bed.
Graham James is the Rhodes Scholar of child abusers. Greg Gilhooly
“I was now a failed suicide,” he says. “There wasn’t a thing I could succeed at. I thought that, once again, this was just another sign of my weakness.
“That’s how crazy it gets.”
His name is Greg Gilhooly. He believes he may be Graham James’s first victim.
And this is his story, the one he was never allowed to give in court.
Next Tuesday in Winnipeg, Graham James will be sentenced after pleading guilty in late February to sexually assaulting two young hockey players he once coached, former NHL star Theoren Fleury and Fleury’s cousin, Todd Holt. In 1997, James was sentenced to 3 ½ years for sexually assaulting former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy and two other unidentified former junior players. He served just 18 months in prison.
It was lawyer Greg Gilhooly who discovered in 2010 that James had been quietly pardoned in 2007 by the National Parole Board, allowing him to leave the country. Gilhooly learned of the pardon only after he had approached Winnipeg police with allegations that he, too, had been sexually abused by James.
It happened in the late 1970s when James was coaching a midget team in Winnipeg. The abuse began when Gilhooly was 15 years old and continued for three years until the youngster left for Princeton University. All this time Gilhooly lived at home with his family – unlike James’s later victims, who were all billeted while playing for the Swift Current Broncos junior team – and James carefully kept a distance while at the arena.
Though both were initially in the same hockey organization, James did not coach Gilhooly’s teams but worked out with him and trained him. He would ask Gilhooly to meet him at one of the Salisbury House restaurants to help go over team “systems” and strategy, after which James would take the confused youngster back to his apartment where, Gilhooly says, all the sexual abuse took place.
“It was an absolutely secret relationship,” Gilhooly says. “We would meet to discuss theory of the game, positioning, how I could develop. This is how he was able to keep it quiet. He'd say ‘If your coaches find out I'm helping you,’ or ‘If your Dad knows I’m helping you your coaches will find out.’ This is why it was so brutal. No one ever knew.”