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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    Goalie nods: Andersen back for Leafs

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    Curtis McElhinney held up his end of the bargain.

    Now, it’s back to Frederik Andersen.

    After missing the last game (well, one-and-a-half games) to an upper-body injury, Andersen will resume his regular No. 1 duties when the Leafs take on the Preds in Nashville this evening.

    Andersen was initially hurt Saturday in Buffalo, then sat out Tuesday’s big win over Florida — one that McElhinney called the biggest start of his career, and responded to by stopping 25 of 27 shots.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Andersen fares in his first game back, and if he continue his strong month of March (6-1-2 in his last 10 games, with a .936 save percentage). The Preds have played well of late, winning seven of their last nine, and haven’t lost at Bridgestone since Mar. 4.

    For the Preds, Pekka Rinne starts in goal.

    Elsewhere…

    Thomas Greiss, who’s lost his last two starts, gets another shot as the desperate Isles take on the Flyers. Philly will counter with Steve Mason, who’s riding a personal three-game winning streak.

    Eddie Lack remains out with a neck injury, so Cam Ward starts when the ‘Canes host the Jackets. No word yet on a Columbus starter, but Sergei Bobrovsky has played three straight, including Tuesday’s win over Buffalo.

    — The B’s are desperate for wins, so no surprise they’re riding Tuukka Rask into tonight’s tilt against Dallas. The visiting Stars have yet to name a starter, but Antti Niemi is likely.

    James Reimer and Roberto Luongo are both out injured, so Reto Berra starts for the Panthers while newly recalled Adam Wilcox backs up. For the host Habs, it’ll be Carey Price.

    — Another team desperate for points? The Bolts, who will go with Andrei Vasilevskiy after he was hooked from — then returned to — Monday’s wild comeback victory against Chicago. Petr Mrazek goes for the visiting Red Wings.

    Alex Stalock, recalled yesterday, will bump Darcy Kuemper from the No. 2 gig in Minnesota, and make his regular season debut. He’ll be up against Craig Anderson in the Ottawa goal.

    — The Ducks just keep winning with Jonathan Bernier in goal, so why rush back John Gibson? That will continue to be the plan tonight, as Anaheim visits Winnipeg. Michael Hutchinson starts for the Jets.

    — It’s Martin Jones versus Cam Talbot when the Sharks take on the Oilers in Edmonton.

    Pre-game reading: On Matthew Tkachuk, the NHL’s newest villain

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    — Up top, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones were none too impressed with the Los Angeles Kings’ response to Matthew Tkachuk last night in Calgary. Milbury took aim at Drew Doughty for turning the other cheek, while Jones ripped Jake Muzzin for turning down a fight.

    — Tkachuk is the “villain we need right now,” according to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. After watching the 19-year-old’s busy night against the Kings, Kennedy writes: “The kid is mixing things up. He’s the perfect example of the guy you want on your team but hate when he’s on the other side. And he’s just getting started.” (The Hockey News)

    Brock Boeser has a bright future with the Vancouver Canucks, but his journey to the NHL hasn’t been all roses. In 2010, Boeser’s dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and in 2014, one of his good friends was killed in a car accident. “When you have experiences like that,” said his mom, “you can’t help but grow as you deal with them.” (National Post)

    — TSN’s Gary Lawless wants the NHL to crack down on slashing. And we bet Johnny Gaudreau agrees. Johnny Hockey got chopped on the hand again last night. This time, the referee called a penalty. But too often slashing goes unpunished, just like hooking and holding used to. (TSN)

    — A Q&A with Alex Radulov, who really wants to sign a contract extension with the Montreal Canadiens. “I would love to stay here. I like it here. I love the fans. I love this [training] facility. I come here even at night time; it’s all open doors. I can come and do whatever I need to. I really enjoy it, it’s really nice. You got everything here just to make yourself better.” All that said, contract talks are on hold for now. (Sportsnet)

    Braden Holtby, fashion icon? Apparently, one of the best goalies in the NHL is also quite the clotheshorse. “I’ve always had an appreciation for things that are well-made, be it art or houses or carpentry, woodworking, clothes, I find the details very impressive for people putting their work into their craft. They see visions and they see those things come out, and you can see when someone cares about what they’re making. I think fashion’s a bit along the lines of that.” (Washington Post)

    Enjoy the games!

    Jets’ Enstrom undergoes second knee surgery in 12 months

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    There’s not much left for Winnipeg to play for — just five regular-season games left, and no playoffs on the horizon — so today’s news that Tobias Enstrom has undergone season-ending knee surgery isn’t a crippling development.

    Can’t be good, though.

    Enstrom’s had a difficult year health-wise and, at the time of surgery, was dealing with a concussion suffered on a Tom Sestito hit back in early March. Prior to that, he missed time while attending to a family matter in his native Sweden and, prior to that, was shut down late last season to undergo knee surgery.

    It’s unclear if today’s procedure was related to the one Enstrom had last March.

    It is worth noting that, at the time of last year’s surgery, head coach Paul Maurice noted the 32-year-old had been dealing with the injury for months.

    “He’s been able to get through it because of blocks of days off. If he can get a two day block, he’d get a little better and it’s just getting worse,” Maurice said, per Global News. “It got to the point that he’s not recovering and he hasn’t been. He hasn’t been for almost a month now. He’s not recovering enough on his days off for the pain ever to subside.”

    All told, Enstrom appeared in 60 games this year, scoring 14 points while averaging just under 22 minutes per night. Next season will be the last of a five-year, $28.75 million deal that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.

    Lundqvist will start four of five remaining games

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    Henrik Lundqvist has had two tough starts since returning from injury.

    The 35-year-old allowed five goals in his first game back, a 6-3 loss to Anaheim Sunday, and five more in his second game, a 5-4 OT loss to San Jose Tuesday.

    But Lundqvist is still the No. 1 in New York, and for that reason he’s scheduled to start four of the Rangers’ five remaining regular-season games, with the hope he’ll be able to play his way back into form in time for the postseason.

    Lundqvist was not happy after Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, even though the point the Rangers gained earned them a playoff berth.

    “I’m extremely disappointed right now,” he told reporters. “I’m glad we’re in, but I want to get the job done. I want the win. We found a way to lose this one at the end.”

    With the loss, Lundqvist’s save percentage fell to .911 on the season. If it finishes at that number, it would be the lowest save percentage of his NHL career.

    Antti Raanta‘s save percentage, meanwhile, sits at .922. In his last start, he shut out the Kings in Los Angeles.

    The Rangers host Pittsburgh tomorrow and Philadelphia Sunday. Next week, they’re in Washington Wednesday, Ottawa Saturday, and then they close out their schedule at home to Pittsburgh Sunday.

    Raanta will start one of the final two games.

    The Rangers are likely to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.