Five players from Canada's 2018 World Junior Team have been placed on leave from professional hockey clubs amid a report that five members of that roster were asked to surrender to police in London, Ont., to face sexual assault charges.
Carter Hart Follower Philadelphia Flyers, Dillon Dube Follower Calgary Flames, Michael Macleod And Calfoot – both of them New Jersey Devils -The former NHLer Alex Formentonwho now plays in Switzerland, have all been placed on indefinite leave for the past four days.
The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing two unnamed sources, reported on Wednesday that the pending charges are related to an alleged gang sexual assault of a woman in a hotel room in London.
The incident allegedly occurred after a Hockey Canada ceremony in June 2018, where players were honored for winning the World Junior Championships that year. None of these allegations have been proven in court.
The Flyers and Swiss club HC Ambri-Piotta cited personal reasons behind the departure of Hart and Formenton. The Swiss team also said Formenton has been allowed to return to Canada. The Flames cited Dube's mental health, while the Devils did not provide a reason for granting McLeod and Foote the leave.
Messages left with agents representing the five players were not immediately responded to. The NHL, the NHL Players Association and Hockey Canada declined to comment.
Police in London did not confirm the Globe report.
“We are unable to provide an update at this time,” London Police said in a statement. “When there is more information to share regarding this investigation, we will be in contact with the media.”
Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General said Wednesday that no charges related to the 2018 incident have been brought to court, and The Canadian Press has no information linking the players' vacations to the investigation.
London Police are planning to hold a press conference on February 5 on the matter.
The Flyers announced Hart's leave on Tuesday in the wake of the 25-year-old coming off one of his worst starts to a strong season when he allowed five goals on 15 shots in a loss to United. Colorado before it is withdrawn. Director general Daniel Briere He said he didn't know if the situation contributed to Hart's recent play in any way.
“I can't really say because we don't know anything,” Briere said Wednesday. “We're not aware of anything. I think there's a lot of speculation. That's all we know.”
Asked after practice in Newark, New Jersey, whether the absences of McLeod and Foote were related to the report, Devils coach Lindy Ruff said: “I don't know. I don't know.”
A woman identified as EM in court documents filed a $3.55 million lawsuit in the spring of 2022 that was quickly settled out of court by Hockey Canada before TSN first broke the story.
The subsequent revelation that the national organization maintained a fund that relied on minor hockey fees to pay uninsured liabilities, including sexual assault lawsuits, led to an unprecedented backlash against the sport's governing body.
Hockey Canada's governance and transparency were then called into question, leading to a series of parliamentary hearings.
Bloc Quebecois MP Sébastien Lemire, who was part of those sessions, said Canadians' confidence in its institutions has been shaken.
“There is a complete question of trust,” Le Maire said in French in Saguenay, Que. He added: “We expect charges, and we expect that we will be able to turn the page on these alleged events from London in 2018. But there are still troubling elements that, to me, need further clarification.”
“There must be political intervention for things to move… Sports are still in crisis, sports are still sick.”
Hockey Canada officials testified before parliamentarians in June 2022 that the organization “strongly encouraged” — but was not mandated — the 19 players at the London ceremony to speak to its external investigators.
The repercussions were swift.
The federal government froze funding, while several corporate sponsors temporarily halted support. Hockey Canada reopened its third-party investigation in July 2022, adding that player participation was now mandatory.
The Canadian Press was first to report that later that month, Hockey Canada maintained a fund that relied on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual assault and abuse claims.
After a series of disastrous demonstrations in the Parliament building OttawaHockey Canada President and CEO Scott Smith left the organization in October 2022, the same day the entire board resigned.
Meanwhile, London police closed an initial investigation in February 2019 without bringing charges, but reopened the case in 2022.
The lead investigator wrote in legal documents submitted to Ontario courts in December 2022 that there were reasons to believe a woman was sexually assaulted by five players on the junior varsity team.
The NHL also launched its own investigation, which Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in June had concluded.
Along with Hockey Canada and London Police, three separate investigations were conducted into an incident that has cast a long shadow over the sport in Canada.
Hockey Canada said in November that the findings of the independent third-party report are under appeal.
All 2018 junior team players have been excluded from international competition.
A Hockey Canada official told a parliamentary committee during one of the 2022 hearings that the organization has paid $7.6 million in nine assault and sexual assault settlements since 1989, not including the London incident.
Smith took the additional CEO title from the retiring Tom Rennie on July 1, 2022, in the midst of the scandal, but exited three months later amid intense calls for his resignation.
-With files from Thomas Laberge in Quebec City, Emilie Bergeron in Saguenay, Que., and The Associated Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2024.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press