Sheldon Kennedy skated for three teams in his eight-year NHL career, but he is likely best known for his courageous decision to charge his Major Junior Hockey League coach with sexual assault for the abuse he suffered while a teenager under his care. Since then, Kennedy has become an inspiration for millions of abuse survivors around the world, speaking about the importance of hope for survivors, an end to the stigma surrounding sexual abuse, and his desire to see meaningful penalties given to perpetrators.
Kennedy has been instrumental in bringing governments, public, and private sector partners together to work collaboratively to influence policy change and improve the way child abuse is handled. He has influenced changes in Canadian law, and has taken his message to the International Olympic Committee and the US Senate.
Kennedy co-founded the Calgary & Area Child Advocacy Centre, the first-of-its-kind in Canada, which offers full wrap-around services for victims of child abuse. He is also the co-founder of Respect Group, which provides empowering online abuse, bullying, and harassment prevention education to sport organizations, schools, and the workplace.
After retiring from the NHL, Kennedy in-line skated across Canada to raise awareness of child abuse issues. The skate resulted in $1.2 million raised in donations, which he donated towards abuse prevention programs. In 2006, Kennedy wrote his memoir Why I Didn’t Say Anything, a riveting account of the many psychological impacts of abuse he suffered. His life story was also made into an award-winning television film, and he has shared his story in countless media appearances, including on Oprah, ABC’s Nightline, W-5, and The Fifth Estate. In 1997, he was named Canada’s Newsmaker of the Year.
In 2016, the documentary Swift Current featured Kennedy’s story, providing a startling and never before seen look at recovery from childhood sexual abuse trauma.
For his tireless work, Kennedy has received numerous awards, including being named a Member of The Order of Canada (2015) and a Member of the Order of Manitoba (2015), and receiving the Hockey Canada Order of Merit (2018), the Alberta Order of Excellence (2016), Lincoln Alexander Outstanding Leader Award from the University of Guelph (2015), the David Foster Foundation Humanitarian Award (2014), the Calgary Citizen of the Year award (2013), the Scotiabank Humanitarian Award (2012), and the Canadian Red Cross Caring Award (2007).
Kennedy also received an Honourary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Regina (2018), the University of Calgary (2015) and the University of Fraser Valley (2012), as well as an Honourary Bachelor of Business Administration from SAIT (2016) and an Honourary Bachelor of Child Studies and Child and Youth Care from Mount Royal University (2016).