The southwestern Ontario city of London will be under the spotlight Monday as a high-profile, multi-year investigation into sexual assault allegations involving players on Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team comes to light. the courts.
Five players (Dillon Dube, Cal Foote, Alex Formenton, Carter Hart and Michael McLeod) were charged late last month with sexual assault in an incident that allegedly took place in the city in June 2018. A court document shows that McLeod faces an additional charge of sexual assault for “being an accessory to the crime.”
Lawyers for the players have said their clients will defend themselves against the allegations and all five are expected to plead not guilty. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The case is scheduled to be heard for the first time in a London court on Monday morning, just hours before local police are due to give an update on their investigation, which was initially closed without charges months after the incident but was reopened years later, in 2022.
The attention paid to court cases like this can spark important conversations about consent and how it is or is not addressed in sports culture, said Katreena Scott, academic director of the Center for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children at Western University. .
This particular case comes as sports organizations have faced scrutiny for their handling of sexual assault allegations, he said.
“We’ve been having a conversation that hasn’t gone far enough yet about how major sports organizations respond to… sexual assault, how they respond to individual incidents and the accountability for that,” he said.
“And so it’s not just about how sport works, how major sporting organizations respond or don’t respond to incidents of sexual assault, but also what they are doing preventatively, educationally and in a culturally changing way of addressing the issue. problem?”
Michael Kehler, a research professor of masculinities studies at the University of Calgary, said cases like this are part of a “long narrative” around sports culture and masculinity. Traditionally, he said, men and boys in those spaces have faced little scrutiny over their behavior.
“That’s the context and I think what we’re witnessing here is something that I think, both in our research on masculinities and in sports culture, we’ve known for quite some time,” he said.
Four of the defendants play in the NHL: Dube of the Calgary Flames, Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers, McLeod and Foote of the New Jersey Devils. Formenton previously played for the Ottawa Senators before joining a team in Switzerland. All have been allowed to take indefinite leave from their professional clubs.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the criminal charges Friday at a news conference before the league’s all-star festivities in Toronto.
The NHL launched its own investigation after hearing the allegations in May 2022 and was in the process of determining how to analyze and act on its findings when news of the impending charges broke last month, he said.
“All of the NHL players who appear to be the subject of indictments are no longer with their teams, so at this time, the most responsible and prudent thing we can do is wait for the conclusion of the judicial process, at which time we will respond according to appropriate,” he said.
Hockey Canada also conducted an investigation parallel to the police and NHL investigations. The organization has not issued an official statement regarding the charges.
A police search warrant application filed in 2022 said there was reason to believe a woman was sexually assaulted by five youth team players.
The charges are related to an alleged group sexual assault of a woman identified only as EM in a London hotel room, the document shows. The incident allegedly occurred after a Hockey Canada ceremony celebrating the players’ victory in that year’s world junior tournament.
In the application, a lead investigator presents EM and several players’ accounts of that night. The document is heavily redacted, meaning not many details can be seen, particularly regarding the players’ statements to police. The names of the players are also redacted.
EM told investigators he went out to a bar to meet some friends the night of June 18, 2018. He ended up meeting several players on the dance floor and spent most of the night with them, he told police. . They continued buying drinks and she had eight drinks and a vodka soda on top of two coolers she had at home, according to the document.
First thing in the morning he left the bar with one of the players in a taxi. She told the police that she went with him willingly, but that she didn’t believe she would have done it if she hadn’t been so drunk.
They went to a hotel room together and engaged in consensual sexual acts, according to the document. EM told police that everything that happened next was not consensual.
She said the player was talking on the phone and appeared to be texting. Then, several of her friends entered the room; She remembers there were seven or eight at one point, according to the document. She recognized some from the bar. The player with whom she had arrived at the hotel was absent for a time when she went to get food, according to the document.
Most of the alleged sexual acts are redacted from the search warrant application. She tried to leave on a few occasions and, although no one physically stopped her, they told her to stay behind and walked her back, she EM told police.
EM told investigators she couldn’t remember exactly how the night ended, but she was left alone with the player she had gone to the hotel with and her roommate. More redacted acts occurred, according to the document. The player suggested she leave because she had golf in the morning, according to the document.
Two short videos were taken of EM and she believed they were filmed at the end of the night, according to the document. In one, she reads, a male voice asks her if she is “ok with this” and she agrees. In the second, the same male voice tells her to “say it” and she responds: “It’s okay, everything was consensual.”
She told police that although she said she was fine, she felt like she had no choice because she was trapped in the room with the others.
EM took an Uber home and the driver comforted her along the way, according to the document. That driver had not been identified at the time the document was presented.
EM’s mother told police she found her daughter crying in the shower. EM told her mother that she had gone to a hotel with a boy and thought it would be just him, but then others came to the room and asked her to do “horrible things,” according to the document.
EM’s parents reported the incident to police and Hockey Canada. Some time later, the player EM accompanied to the hotel contacted her through social media and urged her to retract the police report, according to the document.
The player was questioned by police and told them that he met EM at the bar and they drank together, but that he did not know how much she drank. They took a taxi together to the hotel. After the sexual activity, he asked for food, according to the document.
The player confirmed that he texted his teammates to come to his room, but couldn’t remember exactly who came, and told police that EM seemed fine with his presence, according to the document.
He told police he went out for five minutes to look for food and when he returned, he was engaging in sexual activity. The details of this and much of what happened afterward are redacted.
The player took the first video because “he was afraid that something like this (referring to a police investigation) would happen,” the document says. He made the second video to get her consent at the end of the night, he said.
The player told police he found EM on Instagram after hearing from Hockey Canada that a report had been filed with police, according to the document.
The player’s roommate told investigators he heard there was a woman in his hotel room who wanted to perform censored sexual acts. He said she went to the room with other people, and that at least one of them came out within a few minutes. Most of his story is redacted.
Other players described going to the room and seeing a woman there along with several teammates, but the details of their accounts are largely redacted.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2024.