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Gilhooly gets justice for others by having his own case dropped

Convicted sex offender Graham James holds Hockey News man of the year award in Toronto in this June 8, 1989 file photo.

Bill Becker/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Greg Gilhooly got justice for some but not for himself.

The Toronto lawyer, who came forward to say he had been sexually assaulted as a teenager by Graham James, was happy the former hockey coach pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of repeated sexual assault on former NHL player Theo Fleury and another unnamed victim. But for that to happen, Mr. Gilhooly, the third victim to file a criminal complaint against Mr. James, had to agree to have his charges dropped to allow the case to be "expedited."

Mr. Gilhooly also agreed to have a publication ban lifted so he could be identified.

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"When I first heard of the plea bargain, I was very upset. Today I'm more philosophical," said Mr. Gilhooly, who said he was made aware of the agreement last week. "The lawyer in me looks at this deal and accepts it in a heartbeat; the person in me was irritated.

"At one point, I thought I'd get closure through an apology from Graham. Then it was getting it at his conviction and sentencing. In the end, I realized it was how I dealt with it … I'm done running from Graham."

Mr. Gilhooly said he was a 14-year-old goaltender when he first met Mr. James. It began with an apology. Mr. James was coaching a rival team in a hockey tournament in Bloomington, Minn., and Greg called him a traitor for not helping the bantam team from their shared Winnipeg community of St. James.

Officially, Mr. James never coached Mr. Gilhooly but they soon formed a partnership; the able teacher, the willing student. They trained together and talked hockey.

"He had a wonderful reputation. He was an academic; he was bringing a new approach to the game," Mr. Gilhooly said of Mr. James. "He was the hockey god and I called him traitor. I went over and talked to him. Sure enough, he pushed all the right buttons. He pushed the academic buttons. He knew I had my eyes on a hockey scholarship."

Mr. James worked with Mr. Gilhooly, who said the coach began discussing how the body transferred power from its core to the legs to the feet. He began giving Mr. Gilhooly foot massages and things escalated from there, Mr. Gilhooly said.

Mr. Gilhooly said he escaped Mr. James by going to Princeton University. Later, he played hockey while going to law school at the University of Toronto. He kept his memories of Mr. James hidden away, even when Sheldon Kennedy stepped forward in 1997 and said he'd been abused by Mr. James throughout his minor and major junior hockey career. (The Kennedy charges put Mr. James in jail for 3½ years.)

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Mr. Gilhooly said he was in therapy when Mr. Fleury published a book, Playing With Fire, saying he'd been abused by Mr. James. That got Mr. Gilhooly moving. He filed his complaint in April, 2010, then helped draw attention to how Mr. James had been granted a pardon by the federal government, a decision that has led to proposed changes to pardon eligibility.

"My thoughts are with Greg," Mr. Kennedy said from Calgary. "He broke the whole pardon issue. He brought that to the forefront. He's come forward and his case was dropped in the plea bargain so it didn't go to trial. Essentially, he took one for the team."

"I didn't come forward to be left behind in a plea bargain," Mr. Gilhooly said. "But I decided I wanted to have a productive life. I didn't want to look back."

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About the Author
Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. More

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