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Theo's secret revealed

In a book to be released next week, former Calgary Flames captain Theoren Fleury, reveals he was...

In a book to be released next week, former Calgary Flames captain Theoren Fleury, reveals he was sexually abused by disgraced junior hockey coach Graham James. (Darren Makowichuk, Sun Media Files)

, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 4:13 AM ET

Theo Fleury is ready to tell the world what many suspected for years: He was sexually abused by Graham James.

The Sun has learned the explosive revelation is detailed in his tell-all book, Playing with Fire, which will be released next week.

Fleury will join Sheldon Kennedy as the second player to go public with the sort of allegations that led to a 31/2-year prison sentence for the disgraced junior hockey coach after Kennedy stepped forward in the fall of 1996, telling police he was abused more than 350 times.

Another player testified to similar abuse as part of James' conviction but wanted his identity concealed.

While the horrific abuse of trust Kennedy bravely told police of stemmed from a relationship that started when he first met James at age 14, Fleury's introduction to James came at a similar age, leading up to his one-year stint under James in 1984, when he joined the Moose Jaw Warriors as a 16-year-old.

Kennedy played on the same team in 1984-85 and told the Sun yesterday he knew Fleury was also a victim.

"I knew, but it wasn't my place to say anything," said Kennedy, who lives in Calgary and spearheads several programs aimed at curbing abuse.

"I made a commitment to myself I wasn't blowing the whistle on anybody.

"I did know deep down Theo was going to have to deal with it one way or another."

Bound by a confidentiality agreement with his book publisher, Fleury will tell all starting Thursday night when he appears on George Stroumboulopoulos' The Hour.

His admissions will be fleshed out one night later on CBC's The Fifth Estate, when Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Bob McKeown delves deeply into the former Flames captain's tumultuous life.

While the book, co-written by Kirstie McLellan Day, is filled with raw anecdotes concerning massive drinking, drug and gambling binges, strip-club exploits and his eventual road to recovery, Fleury's relationship with James is sure to capture the nation's attention over the next few weeks.

By several accounts, Fleury doesn't want to be a poster boy for sexual abuse, instead hoping to focus on trying to help inspire change for anyone who felt as hopeless as he did throughout his life.

A recovering alcoholic who was reinstated by the NHL after being suspended indefinitely six years ago for contravening the league's substance abuse and behaviour policy, Fleury recently captured the attention of Calgarians with a gutsy comeback attempt at age 41 with the Flames.

Although released from the team following a pre-season that saw him pick up a point a game and a dramatic shootout winner, he parlayed the experience into a dignified retirement announcement that sparked debate over whether he belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

One of the questions Fleury will have to answer repeatedly over the next few months as he blankets the country on a book tour focuses around why he chose to help finance the upstart Calgary Hitmen junior hockey team in 1995 with James as head coach.

Why he didn't join Kennedy coming forward in the mid-90s is also a mystery, although both questions can likely be answered by the fragile state Fleury has been in for decades.

Shortly after being sentenced in early 1997, James called the Sun with hopes the paper would slam Don Cherry for suggesting on Coach's Corner James be "drawn and quartered" for what he did to innocent teens. When asked if there were more victims, James, now 55 and believed to be living in Montreal, intimated he "loved many people" -- a chilling response suggesting several other players had been abused.

Fitting a similar profile to Kennedy's, and beset with several of the same off-ice issues, many figured Fleury was also a victim of James.

Now we know.


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