Holt Howorko

Todd Holt during an alumni night in Swift Current (Photo: scbroncos.com)

Swift Current Broncos legend Todd Holt testified today at the setencing hearing for convicted sex offender and former Broncos Coach Graham James. It is the first time Holt has made a public statement confirming he was sexually abused by James.

The disgraced former coach pleaded guilty in December to a long series of assaults against both Holt and former NHL star Theo Fleury. The court-ordered publication ban on Holt's name was lifted today.

Holt detailed how he was abused by James throughout his career in Swift Current.

"What that man did to me and many others is the cruelest form of abuse," he said.

"I will not know what I could have ever been but here's what I do know: I want peace. And justice.

"And I want a chance to become the person I was and live the life I was meant to before it passes me by."

Todd Holt
Holt is the Broncos franchise leader in goals (216) and points (423). He is also a member of the Broncos Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the San Jose Sharks but never played in the NHL. Holt also discussed how he turned to substance abuse for years and has been haunted by nightmares.

“All of this because of what happened to me in the care of Graham James,” said Holt, who cried as he read his statement.

“Graham James took away every part of me that my family had brought me up to be, and stole the son, brother and person that they loved.”

Fleury wasn't at the hearing but sent in a victim impact statement. Former Bronco Sheldon Kennedy is at court today. James was convicted in 1997 for abusing Kennedy and one other player. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and was quietly pardoned in 2007.

Click here for "live blog" up to date coverage from the James sentencing hearing

Theoren Fleury victim impact statement

"At a young and very impressionable age, I was stalked, preyed upon and sexually assaulted over 150 times by an adult my family and I trusted completely.

I was a boy with a big dream and the talent to match. I played hockey in the early morning hours, after school, on the weekends and holidays, I even dreamed of hockey. Everyone in my life knew of my passion and my talent, including convicted pedophile Graham James.

Mr. James was a well-known minor hockey coach, and he zeroed in on my family and me. He skillfully manipulated us all, and eventually my parents entrusted my care and well being to him in order to allow me to move to other towns and cities to advance my hockey dream. He was a larger than life figure with the hockey credentials and education as a teacher, to match, and it was drilled into me that he held the keys to making my dream become a reality.

I was just a kid. A child. I was completely under Graham James’s control. And I was scared. I did not have the emotional skills, the knowledge, or the ability to stop the rapes or change my circumstances. I felt lost, alone, and helpless. And those feelings did not stop after I was able to get away from Mr. James; I continued to feel that way for 20+ years afterwards. I descended into years of drug addiction, alcoholism, and addictions to sex, gambling, rage. My loved ones, including my beloved children, spiraled down with me. The pain was all encompassing. And no matter how many NHL games I won, or money I made, or fame I gained could dull the pain of having been sexually abused by Graham James. His sickness changed my life, changed the lives of everyone who was close to me, and caused more pain than can be measured.

Finally, after a night in the New Mexico desert with a gun in my mouth and finger on the trigger, I found the courage to get help and start a long process of healing. I am now reconciled with my children and family, I have been sober for 6 years and I have put the course of my professional life on an amazing path. I am fortunate to speak to victims, survivors, victors and advocates all over North America. From little boys to men as old as 82 tell me they too have been victimized. I am honoured each and every time they share with me. They shed tears, they tell me secrets they have never dared to tell anyone else, and they look for some sort of peace in the midst of their hell.

This court must know that pedophiles like Graham James do not ever change. They are devoid of anything good, and their moral compass does not exist. The statistics show 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. A good majority of these children will grow into angry adults who are completely stunted in their emotional growth, and are unable to contribute to healthy and loving relationships. Some will find healing, but many will not, and the after effects of sexual abuse will affect everyone close to them. They will be unable to find decent employment, they will be unable to fully commit to loving relationships, they will be unable to trust, they will be unable to parent their children, they will be unable to really contribute to society. All because a monster like Graham James preyed upon them, took advantage of their trust and their age, to commit heinous crimes on their bodies, souls and spirits. This is an epidemic and it has to stop.

Do not show leniency to Graham James, he certainly never did to me or any of his other prey. He had many opportunities to stop, to get help, to change, and he never took them. In fact, he kept going. He created situations wherein he could abuse me, he lied time and again, and he found how his authority over me could allow him to do whatever he wanted. He instilled not only physical pain, but also deep emotional pain and left scars so deep and so wide it took decades for me to sleep one night in peace. He was purposeful, he planned his assaults, he took the time and the energy to sexually abuse me every chance he got. And believe me, he will do it again and again and again if ever given the chance. He has no remorse. A monster who will sexually assault children should never be let loose in society ~ never.

When you consider punishment for Graham James I ask this court to think not only about the law, but also about that scared little boy who had nowhere to turn, nowhere to run and nowhere to hide each and every time Graham James raped me. Think about that little boy, his tears and his anger and his helplessness. Think long and hard about YEARS OF SEXUAL ASSAULTS, not just one or two incidents, YEARS OF SEXUAL ASSAULTS, perpetrated by Graham James on me and other children. Think about the journey to hell he sent them and me on. Think about the tears shed that could fill the oceans, rivers and streams by his victims. Think about the ruined relationships, the lost opportunities, the anguish, the fear that follows every waking moment and invades every dream. Only then should you consider punishment. And the punishment should be a lifetime removed from society in a prison where the keys are thrown away, never to be found again.

I urge this court to set an example, not only for other offenders, but to those who have been victimized ~ that this court and this country takes sexual abuse and assault seriously, and that you’ll protect the innocent, harshly punish the guilty and encourage healing for everyone who has ever been even remotely affected by monsters like Graham James.

My name is Theoren Fleury and I am a victor over sexual abuse."