Ex-NHL Star Looks to Combat Sexual Abuse With New Documentary
Documentary 'Victor Walk,' directed by Michael David Lynch, chronicles Theoren Fleury's 10-day walk from Toronto to Ottawa to celebrate his journey from victim to victor.
Retired NHL star Theoren Fleury won a Stanley Cup during his 16-year career in the pro hockey league and an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada.
But he also made headlines in 2009 by jolting Canada's national pastime as he revealed he had been sexually abused as a teenager by a former coach. So Fleury is not surprised by Britain's growing youth soccer sex abuse scandal, judging it far bigger in scope and impact than Canada's junior hockey scandal and the Penn State child sex assault scandal involving convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky and American football.
"The Premier League is the richest in all of sports," Fleury tells The Hollywood Reporter while screening his documentary, Victor Walk, at the Whistler Film Festival. And that leaves the hundreds of former pro soccer players in the U.K. stepping forward to report sexual abuse as kids by former coaches bumping up against powerful interests.
"That's a lot of powerful people that I'm going to be creating a scandal for. They're a business," Fleury says, recalling the media feeding frenzy he stirred when he first stepped before the TV cameras to reveal his long-held secret. And with an estimated 78 million abuse survivors in the U.S., and around 1 billion worldwide, Fleury says the pro sport scandals involving pedophile coaches are just the tip of the iceberg.
"Let's stop sweeping this stuff under the rug. It's happening. Every minute of the day, some kid is being molested by a pedophile," he adds. Victor Walk, directed by Michael David Lynch, chronicles the former NHL star's 10-day walk from Toronto to Ottawa to celebrate his journey from victim to victor, and to draw attention to light sentences handed out to convicted pedophiles in Canada.
"The movie in my head, about the dark room where I was abused, has stopped playing, and has been replaced with this documentary," Fleury says. He adds his role today is advocating for child sexual abuse victims, promoting healing among survivors and campaigning for stiffer laws against predators.
Fleury recently returned to the headlines when the former hockey coach who molested him and other young players was released from prison after serving too little time for his crimes. "They're some of the greatest actors on the planet, they could be winning Academy Awards," Fleury says of pedophiles that worm their way into pro sport leagues and other institutions before finally preying on children.
"Once they have that trust, once they're in positions of power, they start to find troubled, neglected or abandoned kids, and they start grooming them. Then, boom — the sexual abuse starts," Fleury insists. The Whistler screening of Victor Walk had audience members acknowledging past trauma, whether their own or that of someone close to them.
"There were four people sitting in front of us who were weeping out loud, because they had just come to the realization that, they too, were survivors," Fleury says. A young woman said her mother was abused as a young tennis player, and refused to talk about the ordeal.
"I just wish I could talk to my mother about this," Fleury recalls being told. Besides screening Victor Walk at Whistler, Fleury also received the festival's 2016 Humanitarian Award for helping combat child sexual abuse and promoting healing and recovery.