Former player hopes Graham James pays

JASON HALSTEAD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:58 PM ET

A former hockey player who says he was driven from the game by coach Graham James hopes new charges and the notoriety sparked by news of his pardon will finally force the convicted sex-offender to take responsibility for his crimes.

Winnipegger Paul Buchanan, 45, who played for James as a teenager in the early 1980s with the junior-A Winnipeg South Blues and said he was singled out as one of the coach’s “favourites”, was interviewed by Winnipeg police in January after ex-NHLer Theoren Fleury went ahead with charges against James.

“I made a statement in support of Theoren,” said Buchanan, adding he was not sexually abused by James and is not pursuing charges.

“I think he should be convicted again,” Buchanan said of James. “I don’t like the idea he can hide out in Montreal or in Spain and pretend he’s a nice guy and just misunderstood. He’s ... mean, unpredictable ... he’s not a nice guy.”

James, 58, who also coached the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos and more recently coached in Spain, pleaded guilty to sexual assaulting two of his players, including ex-NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, between 1984 and 1995 and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison in 1997. James was pardoned by the National Parole Board in early 2007.

Buchanan said when he played for James, the coach would regularly watch players shower in the dressing room with no other adults present and took him and other younger players on overnight trips.

“He was really more interested in hanging out with us at the pool, who were 15 or 16, than with a bunch of 20-year-olds who had played two or three years in the WHL,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said he believes James still thinks he’s done nothing wrong.

“You could see it in his eyes that he was, in his demented mind, in love with you,” he said. “He thought it was normal and he still thinks it’s normal.”

Buchanan, now a computer engineer, said he constantly turned away James’s aggressive approaches and endured the coach’s anger and open directions to have teammates violently target him in practice.

“I felt defeated and helpless,” Buchanan said. “I tried to tell people and they told me it was all in my head.”

Another unidentified accuser, who may have played minor hockey for James in Winnipeg in the 1970s, has also come forward and is said to be considering pursuing charges. If convicted, James’s pardon could be stripped.

“Until he comes out and apologizes for what he did instead of saying ‘one day you’ll understand I loved you’, he doesn’t deserve a pardon,” Buchanan said. “I want him to be honest and admit he’s got a problem and that he needs therapy.”


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