Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters that the league’s external investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving four current NHL players and one former NHL player while they were members of the 2018 Canadian World Juniors team will not be released to the public until judicial proceedings have been completed.
Bettman made that clear during his All-Star Weekend press conference in Toronto amid a nearly four-minute statement on the ongoing matter.
Gary Bettman makes a statement on the 2018 World Juniors investigation. pic.twitter.com/4CC1C0a3Ru
“There’s a serious judicial process that looks like it’s unfolding,” Bettman said on Friday, per ESPN’s Kristen Shilton.
“And we didn’t, while we were doing our investigation, want to interfere with what the London Police Service was doing. And we’re not going to do anything to interfere with or influence the judicial proceedings. We’re all going to have to see how that plays out.”
Per Robyn Doolittle, Rachel Brady and Grant Robertson of the Globe and Mail, a woman has alleged that five players on the 2018 Canadian junior hockey team—Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, New Jersey Devils forward Michael McLeod, Devils defenseman Cal Foote, Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dubé and ex-Ottawa Senators forward Alex Formenton—sexually assaulted her at the Delta Armouries hotel in London, Ontario. The woman alleged that eight players were involved in total.
The alleged sexual assault took place in the early morning hours after the team was honored for winning the world junior championships.
TSN’s Rick Westhead reported on Jan. 30 that all five hockey players mentioned have been instructed to turn themselves in to London, Ontario, police in connection with the alleged incident. Formenton turned himself into police on Jan. 28.
All four players are away from their teams at the moment. Bettman did not anticipate them being suspended without pay despite what occurs Monday, when London police provide an update on the investigation.
“I don’t think that’s necessary at this stage,” Bettman said.
“This is a complicated juris procedural matter. The fact that they’re away from their teams and not playing, I’m comfortable with. They’ve been paid the vast bulk of their salary for the year anyway. That’s not the concern. The concern is to get this right.”
NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh echoed a similar sentiment to Bettman regarding a desire to see how the police investigation “plays out” before any further action is taken.
“This is [about] charges pending,” Walsh said. “It’s an investigation that will now enter the courts and I’m going to leave it there. These players are innocent before proven guilty. Obviously, the circumstances on the case are challenging and waiting to see how this plays out is really important.”
As Shilton noted, both Hockey Canada and the London police were informed of the allegations in June 2018. The London police closed their investigation in February 2019 without filing charges.
The woman then filed a $3.55 million civil suit in Hockey Canada and the eight players she alleged to be involved in the sexual assault. Hockey Canada reached an out-of-court settlement with the woman.
The investigation was re-opened in July 2022. Doolittle and Joe Friesen of the Globe and Mail provided more details.
“Police in London, Ont., have reopened a criminal investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of the 2018 world junior hockey team after determining there are additional investigative avenues to pursue.
“Chief Steve Williams reopened the case just days after The Globe and Mail published details of videos and texts from around the time of the incident that were provided to police four years ago.”
Regarding the league’s own investigation, Bettman noted the limitations the league faced.
“This task [of investigating] was complex because of a variety of factors,” Bettman said. “Not the least of which was that our authority had limitations, the volume of information, the passage of time and the fact that other investigations were going on at the same time.”
The league interviewed every player on the team. The woman declined to speak with the league.
The next step in the matter is the aforementioned Monday press conference. The location and timing of the press conference have not been shared as of Friday evening.