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Gardens of Shame: The Tragedy of Martin Kruze and the Sexual Abuse at Maple Leaf Gardens

by Cathy Vine and Paul Challen

When Martin Arnold Kruze ended his life at age 35 by jumping from the Bloor Street Viaduct on Oct. 30, 1997, he had been used and betrayed not only by pedophiles employed at Maple Leaf Gardens, but also, in different ways, by the media and the justice system. Such is the lingering message of Gardens of Shame, a retelling of Kruze’s life interspersed with the recollections of other victims of sexual abuse at hockey’s holiest shrine during the 1970s and ’80s.

Using Kruze’s own documents, extensive interviews with his family, and media reports, Cathy Vine and Paul Challen tell the story of a life that is fascinating for its sheer ordinariness – until Arnie, as Kruze was known as a child, began going to Maple Leaf Gardens at age 13 to watch hockey games, practices, and concerts unattended by his older brother, Gary. After enduring seven years of abuse, Kruze’s life became a haze of drugs, depression, and therapy until he recast himself as a very public crusader for the rights of sex abuse victims. The media’s courtship with Kruze and his story was brief but intense, and often exploitative. When the judge finally handed Kruze’s abuser, Gordon Stuckless, a sentence of two years less a day – even less than Stuckless’s own defence lawyer had recommended – the pain and sense of injustice was too much for Kruze.

Gardens of Shame is less a journalistic exposé than an attempt, in the authors’ words, “to increase awareness and understanding of child sex abuse” and offer a “tangible memorial” to the man who blew the whistle on the depravity going on inside the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The authors do an excellent job of explaining how, in seemingly tiny increments, sexual predators earn trust before infiltrating and taking over their victims’ lives. There’s not much here that wasn’t revealed by the massive media coverage that followed Kruze’s revelations in January 1997, but Gardens of Shame should be required reading for hockey parents, players, and coaches, and survivors of sexual abuse.