A Canadian hero
Former NHL player saving lives

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Sep 07/98) - Former NHL star Sheldon Kennedy is undoubtedly one of Canada's heroes.

By skating 8,000 kilometres across the country on in-line skates and sharing his own painful story, the victim of sexual abuse is trying to save the lives of many of Canada's children.

In Iqaluit for example, close to 40 people -- many of them young hockey players -- crowded into a conference room at NorthwesTel and listened to Kennedy talk, via video hook-up, about the sexual abuse he endured from his junior hockey coach for six years.

Nine year-old Colin McLean said he learned a lot during the video-conference.

"I learned how to deal with it if I was being sexually abused," said McLean, a hockey player for the last four years.

"I would get a parent or talk to a parent about it, maybe even call the police," said McLean.

He added that by travelling across Canada, Kennedy was really helping others.

"For people that were sexually abused, he can help them and raise money for them."

At a total of about $3 million so far, the cash collected under the name of the Sheldon Kennedy Fund will be used to build and run a 243-hectare ranch in British Columbia's Rocky Mountains.

Called the Anaphe Ranch, it will used as a retreat for children healing from sexual abuse, as a national education centre for health care professionals and it will be geared to making the issue more public.

Kennedy said he hoped his trip North would serve the same purpose.

"What I'm trying to do by coming up here is to give people the opportunity to understand that you don't need to be scared of this any more...it's a matter of talking about the right things to make a difference," said Kennedy.

Craig Dunphy, hockey coach and co-ordinator of the event in Iqaluit, said Kennedy's visit was good for the community and the children.

"It made them a little more aware of the topic and that it can happen to anyone," said Dunphy.

Counsellor Annie Angoyuak said it was this point that made up one of Kennedy's most important messages.

"A lot of men don't come forward and the general public doesn't view men as victims...or that men can be sexually assaulted. I hope this has an impact," said Angoyuak.

"He's quite courageous to come out, especially with a high profile. He's making a lot of headway for a lot of victims of this abuse," she added.

Despite the seriousness of the issue, Kennedy fielded numerous questions about his planned re-entry into the NHL in January of 1999.

McLean summed up the inquiries perfectly.

"He's one of my favourite players. I hope he goes for the Colorado Avalanche."