International Ice Hockey Federation

Kennedy named to Order of Canada

Kennedy named to Order of Canada

U20 gold medallist honoured for work off ice

Published 27.12.2014 12:20 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Kennedy named to Order of Canada
Sheldon Kennedy played several years in the NHL, here pictured with the Boston Bruins. Photo: Doug MacLellan / Hockey Hall of Fame
The statistics say that Sheldon Kennedy played at two World Junior Championships, helping Team Canada to a gold medal in 1988.

But it was what Kennedy has endured, struggled with, and contributed off ice that has made him one of 95 appointments to the Order of Canada announced by Governor General David Johnston from Rideau Hall in Ottawa yesterday.

“I am very humbled personally, but yet very grateful that the issues that I represent have been acknowledged at such a great level,” Kennedy said upon learning of the honour.

Kennedy played his final three years of junior hockey for the Swift Current Broncos from 1986 to 1989. It wasn’t until many years later that he revealed those years were a torment for him as a result of being sexually abused by the coach, Graham James. James was later sentenced to three and a half years in jail for the assaults on Kennedy and one other unidentified player, but the psychological turmoil done to Kennedy lasted much longer.

Kennedy went on to play 310 regular-season games with Detroit, Calgary, and Boston in the NHL, but he became an alcoholic and saw his personal life go off the rails. He retired in 1999 at age 29, and set out to help those who suffered a similar fate.

In 2013, the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre opened in Calgary. The state of the art facility offers assistance to young people and their families affected by child abuse. Critical to the centre’s success, it has employees from seven government levels working together.

“The systems have to talk to each other, in the best interest of the child,” Kennedy told the Toronto Star. “Our whole goal is how do we, instead of the family wrapping around the systems, how do we have the systems wrap around the family.”

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“My message is really about hope, and that you're not alone,” he told the CBC. “Our country is a lot more understanding of these issues today than we were even ten years ago, and to me that should give people confidence to come forward.”

Kennedy volunteers at the centre five days a week, but his other job is as the director of the Respect Group, an organization he co-founded 11 years ago. It provides programs dealing with issues such as bullying, harassment, and sexual abuse for professionals in all walks of life.

And Kennedy has now been sober for ten years. He’s only 45 years old, but he’s led a much longer life and has come out the other side. From abused teen to NHL star to compassionate reformer, he is an inspiration worthy of the Order of Canada.


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