Disgraced former coach Graham James spotted in Mexico

grahamjames.jpgCBC News and The Globe and Mail reporters found pardoned sex offender and former junior hockey coach Graham James living in Mexico. The stomach-turning story is captured here by Greg McArthur.

With dozens of hungry patrons jostling for position at the El Super taco stand, and nuns weaving between double-parked cars, the retired hockey coach carrying a bag of dirty laundry blends neatly into the chaotic street scene.

If Graham James was looking for anonymity, he has found it in this city of six million people, Mexico’s second largest. His slow, deliberate footsteps show no trace of panic – despite the political firestorm he has created in Canada, where it was recently revealed he obtained a behind-closed-doors pardon for hundreds of sexual assaults he committed on two teenage hockey players.

“I’m impressed that you found me,” Mr. James said when approached last week by a team of journalists from The Globe and Mail and CBC, conducting a joint investigation. “But not that I’ve been hiding.”

In April, it was publicly revealed that Mr. James had quietly obtained a pardon from the National Parole Board in 2007. The former junior hockey coach served a 3½-year prison sentence in the late 1990s, after he admitted to sexually assaulting two of his teenaged players more than 300 times.

This is heavy stuff for Pro Hockey Talk, but I’d feel foolish if I ignored a story about one of hockey’s most notorious figures. Discussing shady pardons is, however, outside of my rank but I will say that it’s disgusting that a little power can cause a miscarriage of justice time and time again. Sports coaches, sadly, are often in a position of authority with young, confused people and there times when the worst can happen.

Former NHL great Theo Fleury recently stated that James also sexually assaulted him in his autobiography “Playing with Fire.” (Though it must be noted that Fleury never pressed charges for the alleged claims.) Fleury said that he wasn’t surprised to see his former coach and alleged predator in another country. If there’s a silver lining, the sighting perhaps gave alleged victims such as Fleury a sense of closure. The CBC had Fleury’s reaction.

“He is a shell of his former self, that is for sure,” Fleury said after seeing James on television. “I remember him being a guy that was very confident and very arrogant, and he was none of that.”

Fleury also described seeing his former coach on TV as part of his healing process.

“I knew at some point that I would either have to see him, you know, on television or maybe face-to-face,” he said.

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    Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

    Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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    Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

    He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

    “I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

    Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

    The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


    That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

    But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

    And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

    To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

    “I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

    Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

    Robin Lehner
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    Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

    Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

    (So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

    While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

    Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


    The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”

    Welcome Ryan Johansen to the trade rumor mill

    Ryan Johansen

    Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.

    This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.

    More (transcribed from video):

    “That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’

    “What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”

    The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.

    It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.

    Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.

    All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.

    ‘John leaves a lasting mark’: NHL announces Collins’ departure as COO

    John Collins
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    One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.

    John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.

    More, from the League:

    Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.

    “John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”

    Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.

    “The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”

    Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.

    During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.