‘I didn’t sexually assault her’: Ex-Canuck Virtanen denies the charges in his testimony

Former Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen says a woman who accused him of sexual assault was an “active, equal and enthusiastic” participant in a sexual encounter nearly five years ago.

Defense attorney Colleen Elden continued to question Virtanen in British Columbia Supreme Court on Friday, asking if he sexually assaulted the woman in his downtown Vancouver hotel room in September 2017.

“No, I did not sexually assault her,” he replied. “She was an active, egalitarian and enthusiastic participant.”

Virtanen, 25, was charged with one count of sexual assault in January following an investigation by Vancouver police.

The 23-year-old woman, whose identity is covered by a publication ban, has stated that she repeatedly said no before the alleged assault.

The court heard that Virtanen and the woman met at the Calgary Stampede in July 2017. They exchanged numbers and kept in touch through text and direct messages on Instagram.

The woman drove to Vancouver that September to visit family and friends and do a photo shoot, and she and Virtanen made plans to meet up. She picked her up from her friend’s house and took her to her hotel room.

During cross-examination on Friday, Crown Counsel Alan Ip said Virtanen only brought the woman to the hotel to have sex with her.

“That was his intention the whole time: to ask her to hang out, to pick her up, to go to her hotel room, it was for sex,” he said.

“No,” Virtanen replied.

Ip said Virtanen never asked the woman what her understanding or expectation was about what would happen that night.

“Did you never confirm to her what she wanted that night?” she asked her.

“We don’t talk about that,” Virtanen said.

The woman has testified that she repeatedly said “no” and told Virtanen she did not want to have sex with him before he allegedly pinned her to the bed with his body weight and assaulted her.

She did not go to the police at that time.

In April 2021, she posted her story on an Instagram page for sexual assault survivors, then spoke with a Glacier Media reporter for a news story, naming Virtanen as the man who allegedly sexually assaulted her.

He was playing right back for the Canucks at the time and first learned of the allegations when his agent called after a game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

“It was still in my gym stuff,” he said on the stand Friday. “I sat there and tried to collect my thoughts. I didn’t really say anything.”

Virtanen said that after the allegations surfaced, then-Canucks general manager Jim Benning told him to stay in his Toronto hotel room and not go out. Over the next two days, he was in contact with Benning, then-head coach Travis Green and a couple of teammates, but he didn’t play or practice with the team.

“What was going through your mind as you sat in that hotel room for two days?” Elden asked.

“I really didn’t know what to think. And I looked out the window, ”he replied, increasingly excited and wiping his eyes with a handkerchief.

The Canucks released Virtanen in May 2021 after the assault allegation and then bought out his contract the following month.

He last played in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2022.


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