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Former hockey coach Graham James sentenced to 2 years for abusing players

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Graham James, known more for being a predatory child molester than a hockey coach, was sentenced today to two years in prison.

An ashen, skinny James, 59, showed little emotion as he was led away by sheriff's officers.

He pleaded guilty in December to sexually assaulting former NHL star Theoren Fleury and Todd Holt, Fleury's younger cousin, while coaching them in junior hockey during the 1980s and early '90s.

Provincial Court judge Catherine Carlson said no sentence she imposed could give back to Holt and Fleury what was taken by James.

She added the courage shown by Fleury and Holt should be given "tremendous respect."

"What happened to Mr. Fleury and Mr. Holt is every child's worst nightmare," Carlson said.

Charges against James involving a third player, Greg Gilhooly, were stayed. Gilhooly was in court as was Sheldon Kennedy who was also sexually abused by James.

If you are outraged by this verdict and I see you are. Never let this conversation die," Fleury tweeted to his more than 46,000 followers in response to the sentence. "Keep elevating till change is made."

The Crown was seeking a six-year prison sentence. The defence had asked for a conditional sentence with no jail time. Defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg said James has become the most "hated man in hockey" and has been punished enough.

The maximum sentence is 10 years for each offence.

James first gained notoriety when he pleaded guilty in 1997 to sexually abusing Kennedy, who also later played in the NHL. James served about 18 months of a 3½-year sentence before he got out of jail in 2000.

The National Parole Board pardoned him in 2007. The Harper government has since overhauled the pardon system, banning pardons for those convicted of sexual offences against a minor.

Court has heard James singled out several of his young players to victimize, keeping them close to him and often separating them from their family by convincing them the teen needed tutoring and had to spend the night at his apartment.

Carlson said James used his position to control his victims and their dreams of one day playing professional hockey, threatening to deny them those dreams if they did not comply to his sexual demands.

"He could make or break them," Carlson said.

Carlson also said James' reputation has been destroyed by relentless media scrutiny, and that he has been publicly humiliated.

However, she added James is the author of his own misfortune.

James works as a software evaluator for a Montreal company.

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 11:38 AM CDT: Corrects typo; adds decision.

12:33 PM: adds comment from Fleury

1:14 PM: Removes live coverage window.

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