Five hockey players — four of them in the NHL and one former NHLer now playing in Europe — will appear in court in London, Ont., Monday to face charges they sexually assaulted a woman in a hotel room almost six years ago. They were all members of the 2018 world junior team when the alleged gang rape occurred and the allegation has upended Hockey Canada.
Here is what we know about the case:
The scandal erupted in spring 2022, when Hockey Canada settled a $3.5-million lawsuit filed by a young woman, identified as E.M., who alleged she was sexually assaulted on June 18, 2018 in London’s Delta Armouries hotel by eight elite teenage hockey players, including members of Canada’s gold-winning 2018 world junior team. The squad had reunited in London for a Hockey Canada fundraiser.
Their identities were shrouded for years and only became public last week when their lawyers acknowledged they had been charged with sexual assault. All five deny any wrongdoing.
ALEX FORMENTON: A former star with the London Knights, Formenton was playing in Switzerland before taking a leave to face the charges. A 24-year-old native of Barrie, Ont., Formenton scored 18 goals in 2021-22 for the Ottawa Senators but did not sign a new contract, an unusual situation, and left the NHL.
MICHAEL McLEOD: He was in the fifth season of a career with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils when he took a leave last week ahead of the charges. The Mississauga, Ont., native, who turned 26 Saturday, has played 287 NHL games and his one-year contract that pays him US$1.4 million expires this summer.
CAL FOOTE: The son of a hockey hall of famer, the 25-year-old Foote has been a fringe NHLer and spent the bulk of this season in the minors before taking a leave. He has played 145 NHL games and is on a one-year contract that pays him between US$350,000 and US$800,000. The deal expires this summer.
DILLON DUBE: The Calgary Flames said they had no knowledge criminal charges were looming when they granted a leave last week to the 25-year-old native of Golden, B.C. After two 18-goal seasons, Dube was on pace to score six this year while playing out the final season of a three-year contract worth US$2.3 million annually.
CARTER HART: The Sherwood Park, Alta., native was the star goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers before taking a leave. He’s in the final season of a three-year contract that pays him US$3.9 million annually.
Lawyers for all five players have publicly declared their innocence, with at least one calling it a “false allegation.”
It was at a bar in London, the woman claimed in her lawsuit, that she met one of the junior hockey players and returned to his hotel room, where they had consensual sex. Afterward, the woman claimed, “seven or eight” of the hockey players’ friends arrived in the room and sexually assaulted her. The lawsuit doesn’t name the woman or the players.
The woman’s family reported the alleged sexual assault the next morning to Hockey Canada, which then notified the London police, according to later testimony in Parliament. But both entities were apparently stymied by the task of even identifying the alleged perpetrators. Hockey Canada initially took no action, and the police closed their investigation in February 2019 without filing charges. The allegations did not become public until after the lawsuit had been settled. In the ensuing furor, police reopened the probe.
By the time of the alleged assault, in June 2018, all five players had been drafted by their respective NHL teams. One, Formenton, had already made his NHL debut. McLeod, Hart and Dubé all played in the NHL in the 2018-19 season. Foote began his professional career with Syracuse of the American Hockey League, one level below the NHL, in 2018 and made his NHL debut in January 2021.
The criminal case is in its early stages and all five men will appear in court with their lawyers on Monday morning.
London police are holding a press conference Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. So broad is the public interest, police are holding it at RBC Place, London’s convention centre.
Chief Thai Truong and Det.-Sgt. Katherine Dann are expected to speak about what has become one of the highest-profile criminal investigations in city history.
THE NHL’s POSITION
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league will not consider any punishment against five accused players until the conclusion of court proceedings.
“At this stage, the most responsible and prudent thing for us to do is await the conclusion of the judicial proceedings, at which point we will respond as appropriate at the time,” Bettman said Friday ahead of the NHL all-star skills competition.
“I have repeatedly used the words ’abhorrent, reprehensible, horrific and unacceptable’ to describe the alleged behaviors. And those words continue to apply.”
He said the league conducted its own investigation but did not speak to the woman at the centre of the allegations.
“There’s no fault there. She was absolutely within her rights not to talk to us, and we respect that,” said Bettman.
With files from Patrick Maloney of London Free Press, The Canadian Press and The Washington Post
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