WINNIPEG - Shane Hnidy looks back and can’t help but shudder, just a little.
The Neepawa native’s first two years of junior hockey were with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, coached by Graham James, from 1991-93.
To think that James was most likely sexually abusing some of his teammates at the time makes the former NHL defenceman and current Jets broadcaster cringe.
“It’s scary for my parents to think back,” Hnidy told the Sun, Thursday. “I was 15, turning 16 in November. My mom and dad think back, sitting in that office and leaving their son and listening to a man they’re putting their trust in.
“I never had an issue. But it was a man in power, highly thought of. It was right after he won that Man of the Year. A great coach, supposedly. And then all this stuff comes out. It’s just awful.”
James, the Hockey News Man of the Year in 1989, this week pled guilty to abusing Theoren Fleury and another, anonymous player, 14 years after his first guilty plea involving ex-NHLer Sheldon Kennedy.
Hnidy and others are convinced there are more victims who haven’t come forward.
And while he never had to fend off his demented coach, he realizes now some things about the man just weren’t right.
Like the movie nights he’d have with select players.
“Some of the stuff seemed very strange,” Hnidy said. “There was a lot of favouritism on players. We were just focused on hockey and being 16, 17-year-old kids and having fun being in junior. We weren’t thinking of deep, dark things. We would joke about not being the coach’s boys, or whatever. Now it’s terrible to think about what possibly was going on.”
What should happen next, though, Hnidy has no trouble thinking about.
“It’s time for him to serve some time for this,” the now 36-year-old said. “This is a man who ruined stretches of people’s lives, took a powerful, trusting position and turned it into a sick and twisted event for himself.
“Now there’s more instances coming out in other sports as well, of coaches in power positions. The awareness is there, but there needs to be ramifications. He needs to be set as an example.”
James spent nearly two years in prison after his guilty plea in 1997.
He is to be sentenced for his latest conviction in February.