NHL, Hockey Canada respond to details in settled sexual assault civil case

·4 min read
According to reports, the alleged sexual assault took place in June 2018, after a Hockey Canada Foundation event in London, Ont. (@HockeyCanada/Twitter - image credit)
According to reports, the alleged sexual assault took place in June 2018, after a Hockey Canada Foundation event in London, Ont. (@HockeyCanada/Twitter - image credit)

WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it. 

Hockey Canada has reached a settlement with a woman who alleged in a lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted by multiple Canadian Hockey League players, including members of Canada's gold-medal winning 2017-18 World Junior team.

The assaults are alleged to have taken place on June 18 and June 19, 2018, following a Hockey Canada Foundation gala and golf event in London, Ont. None of the allegations against the players have been proven in court.

In a statement issued Thursday, Hockey Canada said it is "deeply troubled by the very serious allegations of sexual assault regarding members of the 2017-18 National Junior Hockey Team."

The statement goes on to say: "The person bringing the allegations forward chose not to speak with either police or with Hockey Canada's independent investigator and also chose not to identify the players involved. This was her right and we fully respect her wishes."

The NHL also issued a statement describing the actions alleged in the woman's statement of claim as "abhorrent and reprehensible."

The NHL says it will be looking into what happened.

"We will endeavour to learn the underlying facts and, to the extent this may involve players who are now in the NHL, we will determine what action, if any, is appropriate."

A woman who is named in court documents only by her initials filed a lawsuit against eight players — listed in court documents as numbered John Does — on April 20 of this year. The lawsuit also names as defendants Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League. The plaintiff, who was 21 at the time, was seeking $3.55 million in damages, including for pain and suffering.

The lawsuit says the eight players are "members of the CHL and Hockey Canada, including but not limited to members of the Canada U20 Men's Junior Hockey Team."

In her statement of claim, the woman alleged she was assaulted by multiple players in a guest room at the Delta Armouries Hotel in downtown London. The players were all 19 or 20 years old at the time of the alleged assault.

The statement of claim says the woman met one of the players at a downtown bar, where he bought her multiple alcoholic drinks, causing her to become "visibly intoxicated."

The statement of claim says she went to the room of one of the players at the Delta Armouries, where they engaged in sexual acts.

Andrew Lupton/CBC
Andrew Lupton/CBC

The statement of claim says the man then invited other players into the room, who engaged in sexual acts with the woman that amounted to sexual assault.

"Throughout the assaults, the Plaintiff experienced an ongoing apprehension of imminent physical harm of a sexual nature," the statement of claim says.

"The John Doe Defendants had complete control over the Plaintiff and had isolated her from others. The number of men and the fact that they had brought golf clubs to the room further intimidated the plaintiff. As a result, the plaintiff acquiesced to their repeated sexual acts and direction to engage in the same but this is no way constituted valid unsent under the law by the Plaintiff."

The statement of claim also said that "no consent would be possible owing to her level of intoxication."

The statement of claim says the woman was crying and intimidated into staying in the room during the assaults.

The lawsuit alleges Hockey Canada failed to address "institutionalized and systemic abuse within its organization and failed to have a system of reporting abuse by its players and employees."

The statement of claim also says Hockey Canada failed to remove the players from the team and failed to notify police.

However, in its statement, Hockey Canada said it "contacted local police authorities" as soon as it became aware of the allegations and hired a law firm to conduct an internal investigation.

When asked to confirm if it received a complaint about the alleged assault, the London Police Service said it is "unable to comment on any alleged criminal investigation."

The woman's lawyer, Rob Tallach, declined to comment but sent a statement to CBC News.

"The Plaintiff is satisfied with the outcome and relieved that this difficult matter has been concluded," it said. "She has nothing further to add and, consistent with her expressed wishes and behaviour throughout, requests that her privacy and desire not to be identified continued to be respected."

CBC News is reaching out to members of the men's 2017-18 World Junior team for comment. Most are now on the rosters of NHL teams.

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. 

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