Following the release of Fleury’s revealing book, Playing with Fire, James was charged for a second time, this time for abuse of Fleury and two unidentified former players who turned out to be Holt and Gilhooly. The Crown was preparing to take it to trial when a deal was struck in which James would agree to plead guilty to two of the charges but not the third. Gilhooly believes that James did this to avenge Gilhooly’s involvement in having the secret pardon revealed.
Gilhooly reluctantly accepted the Crown’s argument that not having a trial would save time and that James’s punishment, if he pleaded guilty on two charges, would not be materially different from that if he were tried and found guilty of all three charges.
It was an agreement he would come to regret.
James pleaded guilty. Fleury was allowed to give his powerful victim’s impact statement followed by Holt, who had decided to let his name stand.
Greg Gilhooly, who had flown to Winnipeg to watch the proceedings, suddenly found himself without a voice, without identification.
“I was still an alleged victim,” he says.
And, in his mind, his minor-hockey mentor had once again gained control of his life.
“Graham James,” he says, “is the Rhodes Scholar of child abusers.”
The student athlete
The Gilhoolys were a family immersed in sports. John Gilhooly, Greg’s grandfather, played hockey for the Regina Pats, then football for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. John’s brother George also starred for the Roughriders. Another brother, Bill, played minor pro hockey in Seattle and David, the youngest, played for the New York Americans of the NHL. Greg’s father, Michael Gilhooly, played hockey in Regina with such future NHL stars as Bill Hicke and Red Berenson. Greg’s brother Doug is a natural athlete and sister Dawn was a nationally ranked swimmer.
Greg was the student athlete. He starred in the St. James’ minor hockey association, but he shone even brighter in school. He skipped a grade which he thought wonderful at the time but, in retrospect, he sees it as the beginning of the troubles that Graham James would exploit.
“It’s a horrible thing,” he now. He reached puberty after his classmates, was ahead of his teammates in school. Even his size made him out of place.
At 14 he was playing for the St. James Canadians, a bantam team that went to the Silver Stick tournament and it was here that he first met Graham James, who was acting as trainer for another bantam team. James was at the same time coaching the St. James midget team, which he took to the national championships, and so the younger bantam-age kids were all acutely aware of what it might mean if they caught his eye.
“He was essentially trolling for younger kids,” Gilhooly says, “while he would have described it as taking the weekend to go ‘scouting’ players.”
They struck up a friendship and Gilhooly began hoping he might one day play for this charming new coach.
“One of the things I have been dealing with in therapy,” Gilhooly says, “is wondering whether Graham was a sniper, picking out targets, or whether I was in the wrong place when the bomb was dropped from the plane. I think it’s a bit of both. I think that predators like Graham are very good at picking their targets.
“This isn’t snatching up a child on the way home from school. This is a guy who knows what he wants and he is looking for it and trying to find it, and he found it. He found the scholar athlete all alone, and who was vulnerable, whose relationship with his father at the time wasn’t the best, who didn’t have a strong infrastructure of friends taking up his time, and who would be susceptible to the combination of what he brought to the table in terms of being a hockey coach and an educator.”
James told the boy that he had a master’s degree in English, though in fact he did not, and that he had contacts at Princeton University where he would help Greg to land an academic scholarship and where he could also play varsity hockey.