Graham James pleads guilty to sex assaults

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Today in a Winnipeg courtroom, former junior hockey coach Graham James pleaded guilty to repeatedly sexually assaulting two of his former players, including ex-NHL star Theoren Fleury.

Via Postmedia:

Appearing via video link to a Winnipeg court room, James admitted he repeatedly molested Fleury between Sept. 1, 1983 and Aug. 31, 1985 in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

He also admitted he repeatedly molested the other victim, who cannot be named under a publication ban, between May 1, 1989 and April 30, 1994 in Winnipeg.

James was imprisoned for 3 1/2 years in 1997 after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting another former NHL player, Sheldon Kennedy, and another unnamed player about 350 times over 10 years.

Amazingly, James was pardoned by the National Parole Board in 2007, after which he moved to Mexico. But when new charges arose in 2010, a warrant was issued for his arrest and he returned to Canada.

Following today’s guilty plea, Fleury ripped the Canadian justice system in a statement.

“Graham James pled guilty years ago,” said Fleury, “and then he was granted a pardon, after he was found in Mexico and brought back to Canada on these charges he was given bail, then plea bargained for 14 months — this is what the mighty Canadian justice system allowed a previously convicted child rapist to do.”

Fleury also warned that James would reoffend again if given the opportunity.

“There is no changing a monster like that,” he said. “Defence lawyers can package up their clients in fancy words and lengthy legal maneuvers, but how they sleep at night knowing they are aiding and abetting a rapist is beyond me.”

The Winnipeg Free Press has a more detailed look at the life of Graham James.

According to CBC, James will be sentenced on Feb. 22, 2012.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.