Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New charges filed against ex-Maple Leaf Gardens usher

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TORONTO -- A historic sex abuse scandal centred around Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens was brought into the spotlight once more on Friday as fresh charges were laid against a former usher at the famed arena.

Police said five new men have come forward with allegations they were abused by Gordon Stuckless between the ages of nine and 13 during the late 1960s and 70s.

But even as they detailed the latest in a case dating back decades, authorities said they expected to hear from more victims in the future.

"I believe there are more victims still out there," Det. Const. Roger Villaflor told reporters.

"There is no template or perfect time frame for someone to come forward with respect to offences like this... with the passage of time these men have grown and are at a different stage in their lives and have come forward when they feel more comfortable."

The 63-year-old Stuckless was convicted in 1997 for sex assaults on 24 boys while he was an usher at Maple Leaf Gardens between 1969 and 1988.

He was sentenced to two years less a day, but that was later increased to five years. He was paroled in 2001 after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

In February, police announced that two adult men had come forward with allegations that Stuckless had sexually assaulted them as youths on several occasions in Toronto during the 60s and 70s.

He was charged with six counts of indecent assault on a male and two other charges in relation to those allegations.

He was to appear in court Friday morning on those charges, but instead was arrested on 15 new charges, including nine counts of indecent assault of a male.

Police said the announcement of February's charges had prompted the new complainants to come forward with allegations they had been assaulted at Maple Leaf Gardens and at various locations in Toronto.

"When speaking to these men, the commonality is that they want to hold Stuckless accountable for what had happened and they want to see justice," said Villaflor. "I feel they are seeking a sense of closure going forward."

Police said authorities in nearby York region were conducting their own investigation related to other complainants who've made allegations against Stuckless, all dating back to the same time period.

Stuckless was released Friday afternoon with a promise to appear in court on May 3. Police declined to comment when asked why they weren't keeping him in custody.

The latest charges were no surprise to the president of the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, which set up a counselling program for victims in the Maple Leaf Gardens scandal.

"A lot of the shame has been removed a lot more from the men. It used to be really hard for men to come out and talk about it," said Ellen Campbell.

A man named Martin Kruze brought the Gardens sex abuse scandal to light with allegations that he was the victim of a pedophile ring working inside the hockey shrine, former home to the Toronto Maple Leafs before they left for a new arena in 1999.

Kruze testified at Stuckless's trial that he was among the dozens of young hockey fans lured into the Gardens with free tickets, hockey sticks and player autographs, only to be sexually abused.

Despondent over the original sentence handed to Stuckless, Kruze committed suicide a few days later.

Campbell said the risk of victims feeling as Kruze did still exists, but added that victims are better supported today.

"I think now the sentencing is tougher, it's not nearly tough enough yet, but I think there's more support in place now," she said. "It's a long way to go, but I'm encouraged that men are finally coming forward for help."

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 A20

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