Former Winnipeg hockey player's lawsuit alleges he was sexually assaulted as a teen by coach

A lawsuit was filed last month against the estate of Robert 'Bob' Dawson, a former hockey coach who was charged in September 2021 with sexual assault and child pornography offences. He was found dead in a Winnipeg hotel room the following month. (PhotoStock10/Shutterstock - image credit)
A lawsuit was filed last month against the estate of Robert 'Bob' Dawson, a former hockey coach who was charged in September 2021 with sexual assault and child pornography offences. He was found dead in a Winnipeg hotel room the following month. (PhotoStock10/Shutterstock - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

A former Winnipeg minor hockey player has filed a lawsuit alleging he was sexually assaulted by a coach and mentor in the 1990s.

The player alleges Robert (Bob) Dawson sexually and physically assaulted the plaintiff from 1994 to 1997, and also took photos and video that "amounted to the production of child pornography," according to a statement of claim filed with the Manitoba Court of King's Bench on Dec. 22.

The plaintiff is seeking a publication ban, and is identified as "John Doe" in the suit in order to protect his identity.

Dawson, who was a lawyer as well as a coach, died suddenly at a Winnipeg hotel in October 2021. No foul play is suspected.

A month earlier, Dawson was charged with two counts each of sexual interference, sexual exploitation, sexual assault and forcible confinement, after two former players in the Assiniboine Park Hockey Association came forward, alleging they had been abused by Dawson when they were teens.

One of those players filed the lawsuit last month against Dawson's estate.

The plaintiff, now 42 years old, says he first met Dawson in or around 1992.

Dawson pursued a relationship of trust with the plaintiff during the 1992-93 hockey season, when the player was 12 or 13 years old, the suit says.

That started with offering rides to and from hockey practices and games. Dawson would also take the player on outings to hockey games or museums, and then take him back to his home to watch TV, according to the court filing.

At the time, the player was considering applying to St. Paul's High School. Dawson said as an alumnus of the all-boys private school, he could potentially help the player's chances of being accepted, the suit alleges.

The teen was accepted to St. Paul's in the fall of 1994, and during that time, Dawson "continued to act as a 'mentor' or 'coach' towards the plaintiff," even offering him part-time work assisting Dawson with a legal case, the court filing says.

Teen was assaulted while bound: lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges that when the boy was 14, Dawson began asking him to wear some of his possessions, including "a tight-fitting black T-shirt bearing the word 'SLAVE' and/or black brief style shorts."

Dawson took photos of the plaintiff dressed in those items, but his "demands of the plaintiff continued to escalate," the lawsuit alleges.

Dawson encouraged the plaintiff to consume alcohol, it says. He would tie the teen's arms and legs to a bed and blindfold him, taking photos and videos of him "in compromising and degrading situations of a sexual nature," according to the statement of claim.

Dawson physically and sexually assaulted the teen while he was bound, and "photos and videos were distributed and/or shared by Dawson with others without the plaintiff's knowledge or consent," the suit alleges.

The former player also alleges he was confined at times in a closet in Dawson's home — sometimes for long periods of time — while wearing handcuffs or other instruments.

Following these incidents of abuse, Dawson would drive the teen home, telling him not to divulge the abuse to anyone if he wanted to remain enrolled at St. Paul's and keep playing hockey, the lawsuit claims.

The teen was told "no one would believe the word of an adolescent over the word of Dawson, who was a respected coach and lawyer," the court filing says.

Dawson's threats and assaults on the plaintiff resulted in psychological trauma, the statement of claim says. Those effects include low self-esteem, anxiety and panic attacks, depression and substance abuse disorder, which "have impacted all aspects of his personal and vocational life," according to the lawsuit.

It wasn't until 2021 that the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Winnipeg Police Service.

The plaintiff is seeking unspecified general, aggravated and punitive damages for the sexual assault, along with damages for breach of fiduciary duty, special damages to cover future care costs and court costs.

The allegations in the lawsuit haven't been tested in court.

A statement of defence has not been filed.

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.