After two columns where Pat Hickey libels Theo Fleury, it's time to do some fact checking.
A lot of my personal and limited success as an amateur hockey writer comes from the Montreal Gazette's Montreal Canadiens hockey blog; Hockey Inside/Out. When I began writing several of my opinions and articles were featured there and I owe them a great debt of gratitude for that. I consider Mike Boone to be a personal friend. Pat Hickey played a large part in that website's creation and success since it began around the time I started university. Mike Boone has featured two stories on me in the Gazette and featured my comments another two times. I felt before writing this piece that it was important to write this preface so all readers understand that I don't criticize the Gazette lightly, nor do I take any pleasure in doing so. I understand that I may be burning some bridges here, that should tell you how important this is.
However I'm compelled to weigh in here, not just because I'm extremely uncomfortable with what Hickey has said over the last 48 hours, but because of the reactions/non-reactions of others and the urging of a good friend, who urged me to express publicly what we'd spoken about privately.
The point is simple here, Pat Hickey doesn't get, and he doesn't have any interest in understanding it. Perhaps he thinks he was attacking the culture of hero worship in modern society, as he alluded to on TSN 990, but he miserably failed in context, truth and target. I'd like to go through both of Hickey's articles on the subject, as well as use some of his interview on TSN 990 to show not only how wrong he is, but how blatantly dishonest.
For the interests of context, I'm not going to cut out any of Hickey's articles. I'll be quoting them in large chunks. I do this because I don't think it would be fair to pick and choose what Hickey said out of context. I'll address everything, starting with his article from December 13th.
"It was the right message from the wrong messenger.
Shortly after Graham James pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting former National Hockey League player Theoren Fleury and an unnamed victim, Fleury held a news conference and accused Canada’s politicians of doing nothing to protect our children.
He was criticial [sic] of the ruling that allows James to remain free on bail in Montreal until he is sentenced by a Winnipeg court in February.
"It’s just unbelievable for me when I think about what happened and that he was granted a pardon," said Fleury, referring to a pardon following a similar conviction in 1997. "Then he was allowed to leave the country, go to Mexicio [sic] and who know what he was doing in Mexico. Then he comes back, they give him bail so he can continue his behaviour in Montreal."
I agree James should be doing hard time. In fact, I don’t understand why he was granted bail earlier this year after Fleury ended years of silence by detailing the abuse in his best-selling, as-told-to autobiography."
If Hickey had kept his focus here and continued on the premise that perhaps Sheldon Kennedy is a better spokesman than Theo Fleury for this cause, I don't think many people would be upset. Although it is distasteful to pit two abuse victims against each other, that would be Hickey's opinion. But that's not how it went. The tone is clear before anything is actually said, this piece is character assassination. Using the adjectives "best-selling" and "as-told-to" to describe Fleury's book, he's already subtly insinuating two things: 1) Fleury is in it for the money and 2) he's not a real writer, therefore... something. Perhaps the insinuation is that Fleury is less than Hickey because he isn't a writer? I'm not sure. However pointing out that Fleury didn't write his book alone is a red herring designed to take credit away from him.
However the opening to this piece doesn't fit with Pat Hickey's appearances on radio. He told TSN 990 that it bothered him when Fleury went after the justice system and politicians over lenience on James, but if it was the right message, why did it bother him in and of itself?
"But I find it hypocritical that Fleury can blast the justice system for giving James two months of freedom when he provided his former coach with years.
James’s perversions first came to light when former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy stepped forward in 1996. Kennedy is the hero of this piece and, on the day James pleaded guilty, he was testifying before a U.S. Congressional hearing into sexual abuse of children, a hot topic in the U.S. in the wake of scandals involving alleged criminal acts by coaches at Penn State and Syracuse University."