Hockey players asked to surrender in sexual assault case

Five players from Canada’s 2018 World Juniors team reportedly will face sexual assault charges in the country, a case that could involve current NHL players.

The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, reported Wednesday that the five men are tied to an alleged sexual assault that occurred in June 2018 and have been ordered to turn themselves in to police in London, Ontario.

London Police Service announced later Wednesday that they will hold a press conference early next month to discuss the investigation.

“We understand that there is significant public interest in relation to a sexual assault investigation dating back to 2018,” London police said in the announcement. “While we are unable to provide an update at this time, we anticipate that the London Police Service will hold a press conference on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 to share further details.”

The Globe and Mail report did not name the members of the juniors team who could face charges, but speculation is rampant that at least four of them are on NHL rosters.

A review of the roster from that 2018 team shows that four players who in the past week have requested, and been granted, leaves of absence from their NHL teams played on Canada’s juniors squad. A fifth man playing professionally in Switzerland also has gone on leave. It is important to note, however, that these players have not been named by authorities, who have kept mum so far on the identity of the men they believe were involved in the alleged sexual assault.

The latest players to request a leave of absence are forward Michael McLeod and defenseman Cal Foote, who were granted indefinite leaves from the New Jersey Devils, the club announced Wednesday.

The team statement said the Devils would have “no further comment at this time” and did not elaborate on the players’ reasons for their requests.

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Flyers said starting goaltender Carter Hart would be taking a leave of absence for personal reasons and that the team would have no further comment.

Two days earlier, the Calgary Flames issued a statement that said forward Dillon Dube was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team to address mental health issues.

“Dillon is under the care of health professionals, and we request that Dillon’s privacy is respected during the period,” the team statement read.

In Switzerland, HC Ambri-Piotta said forward Alex Formenton has taken leave and was returning to Canada. He played four seasons for the Ottawa Senators before joining the Swiss club.

TSN reported in May 2022 that a woman identified only by her initials in court documents settled a $3.55 million lawsuit she had filed against Hockey Canada and other defendants, including eight unnamed players.

The woman reported that the alleged assault took place in a London hotel room in June 2018 following a Hockey Canada Foundation fundraiser.

Following news of the settlement, Canada’s Parliament convened committee hearings to learn more about the case and as details emerged, sponsors fled, and several board members and top executives of Hockey Canada were removed.

London police later reopened the investigation amid public outcry.