‘You truly think you can take it to your grave:’ player recalls abuse by coach

Todd Holt says the scars from being sexually abused by former junior hockey coach Graham James will never fade, but every new accuser that comes forward helps lessen the load.

CALGARY — Todd Holt says the scars from being sexually abused by former junior hockey coach Graham James will never fade, but every new accuser that comes forward helps lessen the load.

Holt, a standout player with the Swift Current Broncos from 1989 to 1994, is watching the latest legal proceedings against his former mentor and convicted pedophile closely.

James, who remains in prison serving a sex-crimes sentence, is to appear in a Saskatchewan court this week facing more sex-related charges involving another Broncos player dating back to the early 1990s.

Holt says he encouraged the latest accuser to come forward sooner. But he understands the hesitation.

“It’s something you truly think you can take to your grave,” Holt recalls. “If I ever had a regret it would be not saying more when I could have.”

This is the third time James has faced sex charges.

He served 3 1/2 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in 1997 to sex offences against Sheldon Kennedy and two others. Kennedy played for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League at the time of the assaults and went on to play in the National Hockey League.

James sought and received a pardon for those offences in 2007, but he was back in court a few years later when Holt and his cousin, retired Calgary Flames star Theo Fleury, came forward with new allegations.

James pleaded guilty and was initially sentenced to two years in 2012. An Appeal Court increased the sentence to five years and, although he has been eligible for full parole, he has never made an application.

Holt says he and scores of other young players were interviewed by police when Kennedy first came forward.

“You don’t know what to say. You don’t know how to say it. If I did, what were going to be the consequences?

“When you’re put on the spot and you’ve been through this and you’ve lived the lie for so many years, one more white lie didn’t seem like it was that bad. I feel awful that we couldn’t be there more for Sheldon.”

Both Holt and Kennedy plan to be in Swift Current on Friday when the newest allegations are due back in court.

“It’s not about me anymore. It’s about these brave warriors — the victims who are coming out,” Holt says.

“I had given so much of my life to Graham James. We need to keep our lives going the way we want them, instead of being manipulated or being overshadowed by the darkness of the past.

“I don’t think you ever get over it. I think we all continue to heal. I think scars will always remain.”

Kennedy, who has dedicated his life to fight sexual abuse, says for those who do speak up the process can be terrifying. He says getting closure isn’t going to cure all.

“They think to themselves, ’I’ve told my story and it’s all over now.’ But the reality is it’s not over. The damage has been done and now the journey starts to get ourselves to a place where we can actually feel good about ourselves,” Kennedy says.

“It’s clarification that it’s not your fault. I think it’s one of the biggest burdens that individuals carry — that they’ve done something to deserve this.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe is one of three Rebels on the NHL Central Scouting players to watch list for the 2021 NHL Draft. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Rebels seek consistency ahead of matchup with Hitmen

The Red Deer Rebels had to deal with a pang of regret… Continue reading

Quinn Mason died from an opioid overdose at the age of 23 in June 2020. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta mother whose son died from overdose advocates for ‘change’

It’s been about nine months since her son died from an overdose,… Continue reading

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday that the province was ready to move forward with Phase 2A and B in the coming weeks. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Majority of Albertans to receive first shot before June 30: Shandro

Shandro says all Albertans should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine by June 30

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Alberta’s Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer spoke on Thursday by webinar to Red Deer Chamber of Commerce members. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).
Alberta’s economic diversification is already underway, says Jobs Minister

From the geothermal to the TV industry, new jobs will be created, said Doug Schweitzer

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, rioters storm the Capitol, in Washington. At least 10 Ohioans have been charged in connection with the deadly insurrection at the U.S Capitol after being identified through social media and surveillance footage to the FBI. The group includes people linked to the Oath Keepers militia group who have been indicted on charges that they planned and coordinated with one another in the attack. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
Capitol Police chief appeals for National Guard to stay

Capitol Police chief appeals for National Guard to stay

People gather on high ground and check for any sign of a tsunami near Whangarei, New Zealand, Friday, March 5, 2021. A powerful magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck in the ocean off the coast of New Zealand prompting thousands of people to evacuate and triggering tsunami warnings across the South Pacific. (Karena Cooper/New Zealand Herald via AP)
Powerful quake hits off New Zealand, prompting evacuations

Powerful quake hits off New Zealand, prompting evacuations

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 file photo, students discard food at the end of their lunch period as part of a lunch waste composting program at an elementary school in Connecticut. A United Nations report released on Thursday, March 4, 2021 estimates 17% of the food produced globally each year is wasted. That amounts to 931 million tons of food, or about double what researchers believed was being wasted a decade ago. And most of the waste — or 61% — happens in households, while food service accounts for 26% and retailers account for 13%. (Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP)
7% of food production globally wasted, UN report estimates

7% of food production globally wasted, UN report estimates

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wedneday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Efficacy figures of COVID-19 vaccines don’t tell the whole story: experts

Efficacy figures of COVID-19 vaccines don’t tell the whole story: experts

Rode
Rode: Hayden Clayton latest Central Albertan to join RDC Kings

Even if he doesn’t get a chance to see them play live… Continue reading

Unifor national president Jerry Dias speaks during a press conference in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Dias says Air Canada is pledging passenger refunds as negotiations over federal aid for airlines drag on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Unifor’s Dias says Air Canada holding to refund pledge as aid negotiations drag on

Unifor’s Dias says Air Canada holding to refund pledge as aid negotiations drag on

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. logo is seen in this undated handout image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Canadian Natural *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canadian Natural takes Keystone XL pipeline charge, raises dividend 11 per cent

Canadian Natural takes Keystone XL pipeline charge, raises dividend 11 per cent

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on February 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Line 5 ‘very different’ from Keystone XL and Canada will fight hard for it: O’Regan

Line 5 ‘very different’ from Keystone XL and Canada will fight hard for it: O’Regan

Most Read