As the Graham James story returns to the headlines like a recurring nightmare, we have a small piece of housekeeping to take care of: James is not The Hockey News 1989 Man of the Year. Not any longer.
Yesterday, we learned the convicted sex offender, having served one-third of his most recent sentence, is eligible to apply for parole. As is often the case when James’ name is in the news, the photo of him holding a plaque THN gave him at a banquet nearly 25 years ago found its way back into circulation. And as always, it made us cringe.
James was presented the award in ’89, having duped our selectors like he did the rest of the hockey world. At the time, he was viewed as a progressive coach who took a firm stance against fighting. He’d also led the Swift Current Broncos to the Memorial Cup a couple years after a tragic bus crash involving the club.
Eventually, the horrific truth came out about James’ crimes and we shared the community’s shock, anger and disgust. We also had to deal with the embarrassment of the Man of the Year connection.
Regrettably, it didn’t dawn on us until last year that we could simply strip James of the award. Senior writer Ken Campbell came up with the "why-didn't-we-think-of-that-sooner?" notion and made the announcement in a column he wrote in January, 2012. In it, he asked James to do the right thing and return the trophy. Shortly thereafter, James did just that through an intermediary.
For the record, the plaque has been destroyed.
We understand The Hockey News is not the story; that this is about a pedophile and his victims. Still, we feel it important to clarify the record and close one very small loop in a disturbing tale.