Fleury not at fault for hiring perv: ex-player

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

CALGARY -- No one would blame Ray Schultz if the former Calgary Hitmen defenceman was furious with Theo Fleury.

After all, it was Fleury who knowingly put Schultz and all his Hitmen teammates in harm's way 15 years ago when the upstart junior franchise Fleury co-owned was led by Graham James.

However, while the 32-year-old real estate broker admits how naive and potentially vulnerable he was as an 18-year-old coached by James, he holds no ill will towards Fleury.

"It's so hard to put myself in the head of someone who has been abused," said Schultz of Fleury's published admission he'd been a sexual abuse victim of coach James.

"To me it's the rational mind trying to figure out the irrational mind. I think all of those problems stem from that happening and I don't think people think straight."

Schultz considers himself fortunate he wasn't victimized by James and insists he saw no evidence anyone else was being abused during James' season in Calgary, 1995-96.

One year later, after Schultz was traded and James was sentenced to 31/2 years in jail for abusing Sheldon Kennedy and another player, he realized through the eyes of a counsellor the signs were all there.

Kennedy said a big part of the reason he finally decided to defy years of guilt and shame and go to police stemmed from walking out of the Flames dressing room and seeing James with his "harem" of players down the hall.

By stepping forward in the fall of 1996, Kennedy likely prevented some of those players from falling prey to James.

"If it was to happen to me at a young, impressionable age of anywhere between 14 and 20, I don't think I would've said anything -- I would've been embarrassed and full of shame," said Schultz, showing tremendous compassion for the plight of victims like Kennedy and Fleury, who went years without telling a soul.

"It's a male-dominated world and we're expected to be tough in every way."

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca


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