A scandal has rocked Canadian hockey and led to multiple investigations into several prominent players who were part of the 2018 world junior gold medal-winning national team, including some who moved on to the NHL.
The latest developments came Tuesday when lawyers representing four current NHL players said their clients had been accused of sexual assault. A former NHL player turned himself in to police on Sunday to face a sexual assault charge. The lawyers say their clients are innocent.
Police in London, Ont., have planned a news conference Monday to provide details of their investigation.
A woman sued Hockey Canada in 2022, alleging she was sexually assaulted by eight members of Canada’s world junior team after a fundraising gala in London in 2018. Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit, followed by an investigation revealed that the organization had two secret slush funds to pay. regulations on complaints of sexual assault and abuse.
The woman sought $3.55 million in damages and dropped the suit after reaching a settlement with Hockey Canada.
London police launched an internal review in July 2022 and the NHL said it would conduct an independent investigation into what happened because some active players were on that team and attended the gala. Commissioner Gary Bettman pledged to release the findings once completed.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in June that the investigation was complete and expected a report by mid-summer which the league would then review. As of now, the NHL has not released the results. Daly said last week the league would issue a statement when appropriate.
WATCH | 5 former World Junior players face sexual assault charges:
Who was charged?
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart has been charged with one count of sexual assault, according to his lawyers, who have maintained his innocence. Lawyers representing Michael McLeod and Cal Foote of the New Jersey Devils and Dillon Dube of the Calgary Flames also said their clients had been accused of sexual assault and denied wrongdoing.
Former NHL player Alex Formenton turned himself in to police on Sunday to face charges.
Hart is the Flyers’ number one goalie, while McLeod and Dube are regulars. Foote, a defenseman and son of former NHL player Adam Foote, has played primarily in the American Hockey League this season. Formenton plays for Swiss club HC Ambri-Piotta after playing 109 games with the Ottawa Senators from 2017 to 2022.
It’s unclear what, if anything, might happen to the other three players the woman says were in the room.
It’s not uncommon in Canada for police to give a lot of time to anyone accused of surrendering, which is why the next update is scheduled for next week, two days after the All-Star weekend. NHL in Toronto.
It’s unclear when the NHL will release its findings, although Daly has repeatedly deferred to the London police investigation, so it wouldn’t be surprising to wait until the charges are announced.
Teams plan to compete without these players for the foreseeable future. Flyers general manager Daniel Briere, at a scheduled midseason news conference last week, read a statement and had few answers about Hart’s absence.
“We will respond appropriately when the results of the investigations are made public,” he said.
Spokespeople for the Devils and Flyers said Tuesday that the organizations were aware of the reports and had been asked to refer all inquiries to the league. The NHL was not expected to resolve the situation until Bettman spoke at the upcoming All-Star weekend in Toronto.
For the players, no one knows. If a player is convicted of sexual assault, Canadian law provides for prison sentences, depending on several factors, including the age of the alleged victim.
There is precedent for what penalties the NHL could impose when it comes to suspensions for off-ice misconduct. Bettman has wide latitude to make decisions in the best interests of the game. There is an appeal process through the NHL Players’ Association and an arbitrator jointly hired by the league and the union to resolve disputes, if necessary.
In 2019, the league suspended Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov for the 2019–20 season and subsequent playoffs after determining he had committed acts of domestic violence.
Hockey Canada has already lost several sponsors, including Nike, and its CEO and board of directors resigned in 2022 following this and other scandals.