Gordon Stuckless has died. He is by now well on his way to whatever eternal damnation exists.
Having suffered from sexual abuse as a child the horror of his revealed crimes shook me terribly. That my team , my dear Leafs, had been the vehicle for his reign of terror was difficult to accept. That ownership knew and turned a blind eye for years, that employees knew and turned a blind eye for years is something I have never been able to reconcile my fandom with.
In my adult life, among the volunteering I have done, it is working with organizations that provide services and assistance to men who were abused as children that has most resonated. The magnitude of the problem in our culture coupled with our society's general willingness to turn away is sad. Almost nobody knows that up to the age of 10 a boy and a girl are as likely to be sexually abused nor that while premier Kathleen Wynn removed funding for male-centred sexual abuse recovery programs.. And of course MY TEAM was never held accountable, .Oh sure hollow apologies were proclaimed but I am not sure if any fan really took them to account.
To this day I read on PPP (as just one example) Leaf fans hurling abuse at say Patrick Kane and his team for disgraceful behavior. Yet none of them seem to remember or perhaps want to hold their team, the Leafs,. accountable.
What happened in the bowels of Maple Leaf Gardens was the most vile, horrifying event to take place within a North American professional franchise. Collectively it was one big turn of a blind eye. To this day Leaf fans hypocritically throw stones from their glass house at other athletes and organizations. Why? Because it was only young boys? Because they are too afraid of the truth? Leaf fans outrage at the behaviors of Babcock yet remain loyal fans of the franchise that stood by while employees perpetrated unimaginable horrors on dozens of children. The accountant in me says these two behaviors cannot be reconciled.
This is the underlying problem that for years buried sexual abuse behaviors. The survivors can never forget. The observers and bystanders also must never forget. For the sake of those who suffered never forget what this team's employees, ownership and management did to so many innocent young boys. Today's fans must remember.
On March 18, 1961 my dear, now departed, dad took me to my first NHL game. I am looking at the program right now. Leafs/Hawks... King Clancy Night (St Patty's Day). The Hawks, but weeks away from their first Cup in decades, won 3-1. My little boy scrawl on the scoresheet page informs that it was Kelly from Keon and nothing else for Toronto that night. Now when I think of a young boy at MLG my thoughts turn to tragedy.
It took me many years to think of the Leafs as 'my team' again. Sadly I missed the fun of the 1999-2004 teams and only took things back up in time for years of folly and failure.
Sorry for not sticking to sports, not having a cheery witticism for these dark days. I didn't decide when Stuckless would die. Stuckless' death has stirred memories of the horror he brought into the Leafs organization. It stirred memories of my own childhood horrors and how those events impacted my whole life. How I buried the memories so deep it took over three decades for them to come out.
I have had years of therapy and am now content. I have had a wonderful supportive life partner. I have committed time to help others recover. I am at peace. I am again a Leafs fan, .( I never ever went back to cheering for my fave NCAA football team, Penn State, mind you.)
Leaf fans, don't ever forget that the absolutely darkest events to take place within a pro franchise occurred within your franchise. I say this not to encourage some sort of self-flagellation but rather that we all need to be reminded that the matter of young boys being abused is a social issue that we as Leaf's fans need to be more aware of, more compassionate about and more driven to help out.
You don't turn a blind eye, you don't accept it and move on , you don't become a stone-throwing hypocrite, you ask "how can I help"? Don't leave boys behind because they are just boys. That homeless guy you pass everyday? Really good chance he was abused as a kid. A boy left behind by a society that turned a blind eye and forgot. Don't forget and try to help. This matter, as with 11 Cups, Kelly and Keon, Lanny and Wendel is part of our franchise's legacy. The sentence of Gordon Stuckless now to eternal damnation doesn't change that.