Kennedy sur­prised by un­veil­ing of out­door rink named in his hon­our

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

The City of Swift Cur­rent un­veiled a sur­prise recog­ni­tion to Shel­don Kennedy on Fe­bru­ary 7, nam­ing the out­door rink at River­dene Park as The Shel­don Kennedy Rink.

The recog­ni­tion came at the same time as the in­au­gu­ral Shel­don Kennedy Youth Out­door Clas­sic was played as part of the Sco­tia­bank Hockey Day in Canada.

“Tears don’t go too far down the cheek at this tem­per­a­ture,” and emo­tional Kennedy joked after the recog­ni­tion. “I did things in my life that I thought were right and I thought were im­por­tant, and I think that it was be­cause I kept hear­ing sto­ries and sto­ries and sto­ries of peo­ple that had went through what I went through. And that’s what kept me go­ing.”

He ad­mit­ted that hav­ing a rink bear­ing his name in Swift Cur­rent means a lot.

“When I first told my story it wasn’t real pop­u­lar. No­body re­ally wanted to talk about the is­sues that Shel­don Kennedy rep­re­sents. And now I think peo­ple are fi­nally re­al­iz­ing that this is im­por­tant, and we need to take a stand. And its re­ally very im­pact­ful on our kids in our com­mu­ni­ties when we’re not putting this at the fore­front. So that’s what re­ally I think has made me emo­tional with this.”

Kennedy played three sea­sons with the Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos from 1986 to 1989, win­ning a Me­mo­rial Cup Cham­pi­onship dur­ing his fi­nal sea­son. He stunned the sports world when he broke the si­lence and came for­ward to re­veal the sex­ual abuse he suf­fered dur­ing his time as a ju­nior hockey player at the hands of his for­mer coach, Gra­ham James.

“Yeah Shel­don won a Me­mo­rial Cup here in Swift Cur­rent. But also…there was a lot of peo­ple that re­ally didn’t un­der­stand when Shel­don dis­closed what was go­ing on. And so it was a dark time and there was a few years that were very dark and Shel­don wasn’t pop­u­lar in a lot of peo­ple’s minds be­cause I think they weren’t clear about what had re­ally gone on and what had re­ally hap­pened, and the im­pact, and how dare he do this to the game.”

“Yet I think where we’ve evolved to - and I think what the rink is - is that the game has shifted the con­ver­sa­tion around sig­nif­i­cant is­sues that are very im­pact­ful around abuse, bul­ly­ing and harassment in the game of hockey. And hockey in gen­eral across this coun­try has al­lowed so­ci­ety to shift that con­ver­sa­tion to be, hey you know what, we need to take ac­tion and you know we can’t be hid­ing this any­more. Right? It needs to be out in the fore­front. And so here we are. Shel­don Kennedy rep­re­sents the is­sues of child abuse. And so to me it’s about the im­por­tance of un­der­stand­ing that here. And that’s ba­si­cally what my name is. So if they put my name up, that means that they care about mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.”

He put his ef­forts be­hind the Shel­don Kennedy Child Ad­vo­cacy Cen­tre (now known as the Calgary and Area Child Ad­vo­cacy Cen­tre), and de­vel­op­ing the Re­spect Group Inc. which de­liv­ers the Re­spect in Sport pro­gram to help adults rec­og­nize and pre­vent abuse, bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ments.

His ef­forts ul­ti­mately led to the de­vel­op­ment of Safe Places in Swift Cur­rent.

“Safe Places is a key mes­sage. I think that needs to re­sem­ble that kids can feel safe. We’ve done over 9,000 child abuse in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and half of those kids are be­ing hurt in their home. So some­times these places are the safe places, and we need to un­der­stand that. They may not feel safe at home, but when they come out to com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions, that may be the place that they feel the safest. And we need to make sure that we’re in a po­si­tion to re­spond if they dis­close to us some­thing that might be go­ing on in their life. I think that needs to be our mind­set when we’re show­ing up at these places, that we’re here and our eyes and ears are open and we can’t be by­standers.”

He ad­mit­ted that the recog­ni­tion is just an­other step for­ward for the com­mu­nity.

“I re­mem­ber the con­ver­sa­tion that we had about some­times there’s a black cloud that was hang­ing over the city with my case and other cases. And I think when we looked at that we said while how can we change that into tak­ing a lead­er­ship role. And hence came out of that Safe Places.”

“Peo­ple said, hey you know what, we’re go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence. We’re go­ing to do some­thing that’s go­ing to pre­vent the Gra­ham James types of in­ci­dences from hap­pen­ing again. What we know is our best de­fence when it comes to child pro­tec­tion around abuse, bul­ly­ing and harassment is knowl­edge. And Safe Places gives us knowl­edge.”

Swift Cur­rent Mayor De­nis Per­rault said both the youth out­door hockey tour­na­ment and re­nam­ing the rink in Kennedy’s hon­our were fit­ting trib­utes.

“I find it in­cred­i­bly fit­ting as part of the fes­tiv­i­ties we are launch­ing an out­door hockey tour­na­ment bear­ing the name of a gen­tle­man who is known as much for his courage and brav­ery as for his heroic ex­ploits on the ice.” Per­rault said.

“Your brav­ery, com­pas­sion and courage are a shin­ing ex­am­ple to our en­tire com­mu­nity, and your le­gacy in Swift Cur­rent will live on for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

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