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Alleged pedophile ring at Maple Leaf Gardens

February 19, 1997

TORONTO (AP) _ In another sex-abuse scandal to jolt Canadian hockey, an alleged pedophile ring of Maple Leaf Gardens employees lured dozens of boys into sex with offers of tickets, hockey sticks and autographs.

One alleged victim says he was part of the sex ring from 1975 to 1982 in which group sex took place in the back rooms of the building _ one of hockey’s most renowned arenas _ sometimes during Toronto Maple Leafs games.

A former maintenance worker in the building, Gordon Stuckless, 47, appeared in court Wednesday on charges of indecent assault and gross indecency. He worked at the arena until the early 1990s as a backstage helper at concerts and hockey games.

At least two other employees at the arena, one of them deceased, allegedly were involved in the sex ring.

``We have reason to believe there are many, many victims, but only one is capable of going to court at this time,″ said Toronto police detective Dave Tredrea.

That complainant is Martin Kruze, 34, who says the abuse started when he was 13 in 1975 and continued until 1982. Kruze said he has attempted suicide several times and undergone and undergone 10 years of counseling.

This is the second major sex-abuse case this year that has tarnished the image of Canada’s beloved national sport.

In January, a highly respected junior league coach, Graham James, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for repeated sexual abuse of two of his players over a period of years. One of his victims was Sheldon Kennedy, now a forward with the Boston Bruins, who went public with his story of being abused more than 300 times by James.

Similar cases involving at least three other minor league coaches have come under police investigation, and junior hockey administrators have been implementing new procedures for screening coaches.

Kruze first made his allegations in 1993 when he sued Maple Leaf Gardens. He settled out of court for about $45,000, with the stipulation he not go public with his allegations, but decided this month to come forward anyway.

Cliff Fletcher, president of the Gardens management company and general manager of the Maple Leafs, said police weren’t notified in 1993 because an investigation by a private detective was inconclusive.

``It couldn’t substantiate the allegations,″ Fletcher told the Toronto Star. ``We thought at worst it was an isolated incident, if indeed it was a true incident.″

Kruze said his submission to repeated sex with a now-deceased equipment manager at the Gardens was rewarded with free entry into the area for him and his friends for hockey games and rock concerts. He said ushers often allowed him into the press box, and he sometimes dined at the Gardens’ exclusive Hot Stove Lounge.

The Toronto Star quoted another alleged victim, who requested anonymity, as saying he was lured into sex because a staff member allowed him to watch Leafs practices and gave him used hockey sticks.

The Maple Leafs, who are tied for last in the NHL, intend to build a new arena soon but no site has been selected.

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