TORONTO – Lawyers for Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, New Jersey Devils forward Michael McLeod and defenceman Cal Foote came forward Tuesday to say their clients have been charged with sexual assault in connection to allegations involving Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team.
All four players said through their lawyers that they intend to plead not guilty.
The Globe and Mail, citing two unnamed sources, reported last Wednesday that the charges are connected to an alleged group sexual assault of a woman in a London, Ont., hotel room in June 2018.
The incident allegedly occurred following a Hockey Canada gala where the players were honoured for their victory at that year’s world junior tournament.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
“Mr. McLeod denies any criminal wrongdoing,” McLeod’s lawyers David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein of Toronto law firm Greenspan Humphrey Weinstein said in a statement. “He will be pleading not guilty and will vigorously defend the case.”
Hart’s lawyers Megan Savard and Riaz Sayani said in a statement that Hart is “innocent” and will “provide a full response to this false allegation in the proper forum, a court of law.”
Dube’s lawyers, Louis P. Strezos and Kaleigh Davidson, said Dube “maintains his innocence.”
Foote’s lawyer, Julianna Greenspan, said Foote is “innocent of the charge and will defend himself against this allegation to clear his name.”
All four statements indicated that there would be no further comments at this time.
Dube, Hart, McLeod and Foote are among five players from Canada’s 2018 world junior squad who recently went on indefinite leave from their pro clubs amid a report that five members of that roster were asked to surrender to face sexual assault charges.
A fifth player, Alex Formenton, surrendered to police in London on Sunday.
A lawyer for Formenton confirmed that his client has been charged in connection with the case, and said the player would plead not guilty.
As of Tuesday evening, it was not known if the other four players had also surrendered to police.
Formenton’s Swiss club, HC Ambri-Piotta, cited personal reasons for his leave and said he had been allowed to return to Canada.
The Devils did not provide a reason for McLeod or Foote requesting a leave of absence and when asked about their lawyers’ statements referred any further questions to the NHL.
The Flyers cited personal reasons for Hart’s leave.
The Flames had indicated on Jan. 21 that Dube was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the team while “he attends to his mental health. Dillon is under the care of health professionals, and we request that Dillon’s privacy be respected during this period.”
The Flames added in a statement Tuesday night that: “We have now become aware of the charge of sexual assault that has been laid against Dillon Dube. We take this matter very seriously. Because the matter is now pending legal proceedings, we will have no further comment at this time.
“We had no knowledge of pending charges at the time Dillion’s request for a leave of absence was granted.”
Joe Siville, the vice-president of hockey communications for the Philadelphia Flyers, said the team is monitoring the situation with Hart.
“We will respond appropriately to this very serious matter when the outcomes of the investigations are made public. The NHL has been very clear that teams should refer all investigation-related questions to them. In the meantime, members of the organization, including Flyers players, will not be commenting further.”
London police have said a press conference to update developments in its investigation into the 2018 case is scheduled for Monday.
A woman identified as E.M. in court documents filed a $3.55-million lawsuit in the spring of 2022 that was quickly settled out of court by Hockey Canada before TSN first broke the story.
Subsequent revelations that the national organization maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including lawsuits related to sexual assaults, sparked an unprecedented backlash against the sport’s governing body.
Hockey Canada’s governance and transparency were subsequently called into question, leading to a series of parliamentary hearings.
Hockey Canada officials testified to parliamentarians in June 2022 that the organization had “strongly encouraged” – but not mandated – the 19 players at the London gala to speak to its own third-party investigators.
The fallout was swift.
The federal government froze funding, while several corporate sponsors paused support. Hockey Canada reopened its third-party investigation in July 2022, adding that player participation was now mandatory.
The Canadian Press was first to report later that month Hockey Canada maintained a fund that drew on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual assault and abuse claims.
After a string of disastrous Parliament Hill appearances in Ottawa, Hockey Canada president and CEO Scott Smith left the organization in October 2022, the same day the entire board of directors resigned.
London police, meanwhile, closed an initial investigation in February 2019 without filing charges, but reopened the case in 2022.
A lead investigator wrote in legal documents filed with Ontario courts in December 2022 that there were grounds to believe a woman was sexually assaulted by five players on the junior team.
The NHL also launched its own investigation, which deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in June had concluded.
Along with Hockey Canada and the London police, that made for three separate probes into an incident that has cast a long shadow over the sport in Canada.
Hockey Canada said in November the findings of its independent third-party report are under appeal.
All players from the 2018 junior team have been excluded from international events.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2024.