By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on January 24, 2024.
Police in London, Ont., are not confirming a report that five members of Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team have been told to surrender to authorities to face charges of sexual assault.
The Globe and Mail, citing two unnamed sources, reported Wednesday the pending charges are connected to an alleged group sexual assault of a woman in a hotel room.
The incident is alleged to have occurred following a Hockey Canada gala in June 2018 where the players were honoured for their victory at that year’s world junior tournament.
A number of players from that team are now in the NHL.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
London police said in a statement that they are unable to provide an update on their investigation at this time but will be in touch with media when there is more information to share.
A woman identified as E.M. in court documents filed a $3.35-million lawsuit in the spring of 2022 that was quickly settled out of court by Hockey Canada.
Subsequent revelations that the national organization maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including lawsuits related to sexual assaults, sparked an unprecedented backlash against the sport’s governing body.
Hockey Canada’s governance and transparency were subsequently called into question, leading to a series parliamentary hearings.
Officials testified to parliamentarians in June 2022 the organization had “strongly encouraged” – but not mandated – the 19 players at the London gala speak to its own third-party investigators.
President and CEO Scott Smith left Hockey Canada in October 2022, the same day the entire board of directors resigned.
London police closed an initial investigation in February 2019 without filing charges, but reopened the case in 2022.
A lead investigator wrote in legal documents filed with Ontario courts in December 2022 there were grounds to believe a woman was sexually assaulted by five players on the junior team.
The NHL also launched its own investigation.
Along with Hockey Canada and the London police, that made for three separate probes into an incident that has cast a long shadow over the sport in Canada.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has repeatedly said the league’s analysis of the situation is nearing a conclusion.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly stated in June the league’s investigation into the matter concluded its work and that the league was in contact with London police.
Daly said in an email Wednesday the league would issue a statement “if and when it becomes appropriate.”
Hockey Canada said in November the findings of its independent third-party report are under appeal.
All players from Canada’s 2018 junior team have been excluded international events.
A Hockey Canada official told a parliamentary committee during one of its hearings that the organization had paid out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual abuse and assault since 1989, not including the London incident.
Several companies withdrew or paused their sponsorship of Hockey Canada, while Nike walked away for good this summer.
Smith took on the additional title of CEO from the retiring Tom Renney on July 1, 2022, in the midst of the scandal, but stepped down three months later amid blistering calls for him to resign.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2024.