Ice Hockey Wiki

Graham Michael James (born February 7, 1952)[1] is an ice hockey coach best known for his conviction, incarceration and pardon for sexually abusing two of his former players: one unnamed victim and retired NHL player Sheldon Kennedy. Several other former junior hockey players, including retired NHL player Theo Fleury, have filed complaints with police in Manitoba and Alberta alleging sexual assaults by James when he coached them. In 2010, James was living in Guadalajara, Mexico.[2]


Early life[]

Born on Prince Edward Island, Canada on 7 February 1952, he played hockey until about the age of eighteen when he stopped due to asthma attacks. He graduated from university, and worked as a substitute teacher in St. James-Assiniboia School Division 2, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and began his coaching career.[1] Between 1979 and 1983 he coached Junior A Hockey, including the Fort Garry Blues with whom he won the Manitoba provincial title. In 1984, he was head scout for the Winnipeg Warriors of the Western Hockey League, and recruited two future National Hockey League players to the team, Theoren Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy. The team later relocated to Moose Jaw as the Moose Jaw Warriors,[3] and in 1985 James was hired as head coach for the team.[1] He was the coach and general manager of the Swift Current Broncos from 1986–1994, leading them to two WHL titles in 1989 and 1993.[1] The team also won the Memorial Cup in 1989, and in the same year James was named Man of the Year by The Hockey News.[2] He was also coach of the Broncos when four of its players were killed when the team bus overturned on December 30, 1986. In 1994, James became the part owner, head coach and general manager of the expansion Calgary Hitmen.[1] He resigned during the 1996-97 season and was replaced by Dean Clark.

Sexual abuse[]

In 1996, Sheldon Kennedy and unnamed other player came forward with complaints about sexual abuse they had suffered between 1984 and 1995,[2] and in November 1996, James was charged with sexual assault.[1] On January 2, 1997, James pleaded guilty to 350 sexual assaults against the two players, and was sentenced to three and a half years in jail. He was paroled in 2001.[2][1] The players referred to whomever James targeted as "Graham's new favorite." James was charismatic and consistently successful as a coach. Even during his investigation, he was able to secure character references from respected hockey persons and former players. James had an unpredictable personality; on the surface appearing to be a 'players' coach,' but often going to great lengths to ruin the sports experience of many young hockey players who had fallen out of his grace. Parents and hockey management preferred to ignore the rumors concerning James' private life. He claimed that his relationship with Sheldon Kennedy was consensual and it was not illegal or immoral.[4]

In 1999, a civil lawsuit against James, the Canadian Hockey Association, the Western Hockey League and other hockey organizations was filed by an unnamed victim of James and his parents. It was settled out of court in 2003.[1]

James was given a lifetime ban from coaching by the Canadian Hockey Association.[2] When the CHA learned that James was coaching in Spain, it complained to European ice hockey officials, and he was fired.[5][2] His subsequent whereabouts were unclear, though there were some rumours that he was living in Montreal.[2] In May 2010, he was located by the media living in Guadalajara, Mexico.[2]

In a memoir entitled "Playing with Fire" NHL player Theo Fleury alleged that from the age of 14 James had molested him for years during his time on the Moose Jaw Warriors team.[2][6] On January 6, 2010, Fleury filed a criminal complaint with the City of Winnipeg police.[3][2] "I have been reflecting on this a long time," said Fleury. "I wanted to make the biggest impact on preventing this kind of thing from happening in the future."[3] Three other of James' former players have also filed police complaints; investigations have been made but no further charges have been laid.[2]


On April 4, 2010, it was revealed in the media that James had been issued a pardon by the Canadian National Parole Board in 2007. News of the pardon only came to light when an unidentified Winnipeg man brought an allegation of abuse against him. [1] The pardon provoked outrage, and have led to proposed changes to the Canadian pardon system.[2]

Career Statistics[]


    Regular Season   Playoffs
Season Team League Type GP W L T Pts Finish GP W L Results
1979-80 Fort Garry MJHL Head Statistics Unavailable 3rd South 6 2 4 Lost Div Semi
1980-81 Fort Garry MJHL Head 48 22 25 1 45 3rd South 5 1 4 Lost Div Semi
1981-82 Fort Garry MJHL Head 48 38 9 1 77 1st South 12 12 0 Won League
1981-82 Fort Garry MAHA Head - - - - - - 3 3 0 Won Turnbull Cup
1981-82 Fort Garry Centennial Cup Head - - - - - - 6 2 4 Lost Anavet Cup
1982-83 Fort Garry MJHL Head 48 31 16 1 63 2nd South 10 6 4 Lost Div Final
1985-86 Winnipeg MJHL Head 48 36 12 0 72 1st South 12 12 0 Won League
1985-86 Winnipeg Centennial Cup Head - - - - - - 7 4 3 Won Anavet Cup
Centennial Cup Head - - - - - - 5 1 4 Lost Abbott Cup

Coaching positions[]

Awards & Achievements[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 "Timeline: Graham James", October 10, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-06-04. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 "Graham James found in Mexico",, May 13, 201. Retrieved on 2010-06-040. Archived from the original on 2010-05-14. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 George Johnson. "Theo Fleury files criminal complaint against former coach", 2010-04-05. Retrieved on 2010-04-26. 
  4. CTV Edmonton - Another person files claim against former hockey coach. CTV News (April 5, 2010). Retrieved on 2010-06-04.
  5. Graham James coaching in Spain, CBC News, April 26, 2001, Accessed August 11, 2007.
  6. Fleury tell-all book chronicles sexual abuse. CBC News (2009-10-09). Retrieved on 2010-04-26.