Hockey Canada won’t discuss player sanctions as panel completes report on sexual assault claim

Warning: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers

Hockey Canada says a third-party adjudicative panel has completed its final report on possible sanctions against former World Junior players who allegedly were involved in a 2018 group sexual assault in London, Ont.

But the hockey organization isn’t releasing the results — or stating whether the report recommends sanctions against any of the players — because it says the panel’s conclusions are now under appeal.

“As the appeal process, which we anticipate will begin in the near future, will be conducted in-camera, we are not able to share details of the report, including its findings at this time, to ensure that we do not interfere with the integrity of the appeal process,” Jeremy Knight, a spokesperson for Hockey Canada, said in a press release.

The hockey organization says it received a notice of appeal shortly after the adjudicative panel — made up of two retired judges and a senior lawyer — shared its final report with all of the parties involved, including the players and the alleged victim. Hockey Canada won’t say who filed the appeal. 

The adjudicative panel’s work is being conducted behind closed doors. Hockey Canada won’t name the three members of what it calls an independent panel. Hockey Canada tasked the panel with determining if the players breached its code of conduct.

The high-profile case centres on a lawsuit Hockey Canada settled with a young woman who alleged in April 2022 that she was sexually assaulted in 2018 by eight Canadian Hockey League players, including members of the World Junior team. 

The lawsuit shook the sports world and led to a series of sponsors dropping their support for Hockey Canada, while the federal government froze the agency’s funding and MPs demanded answers. Hockey parents were also outraged to learn that Hockey Canada used the National Equity Fund — made up in part of their registration fees — to pay an out-of-court settlement in that case and others.

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The organization’s entire board of directors and CEO stepped down last year in the face of widespread criticism of its handling of the alleged sexual assault case. 

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The woman alleged in her lawsuit that an unnamed hockey player bought her alcoholic drinks at a local bar. She claims that she became visibly drunk and was seen stumbling and slurring her speech.

The statement of claim alleges the complainant went to the player’s hotel room and engaged in sexual acts. The statement of claim alleges that at some point, the player allowed seven others to enter the room without the complainant’s “knowledge or consent.” The statement of claim said the men brought “golf clubs with them, knowing it would further frighten and intimidate her.”

Over several hours, according to the statement of claim, the group of hockey players placed their genitals on her face, slapped her buttock, spit on her, ejaculated on her and engaged in vaginal intercourse while she was too intoxicated to consent.

The statement of claim said that after the sexual assault ended, the players filmed the young woman, instructed her to say she was sober and told her to shower.

The statement of claim also alleges the players pressured the young woman not to report the allegations or co-operate with a police investigation.

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When Hockey Canada learned about the allegations, it initially contacted the high-profile law firm Henein Hutchison Robitaille LLP for legal advice, a parliamentary committee has heard. Hockey Canada later hired the law firm to launch its own investigation into what happened. 

Henein Hutichson’s report on  the alleged sexual assault was shared with Hockey Canada’s adjudicative panel in November 2022. The panel was tasked with determining if sanctions should be imposed against the players, Hockey Canada said.

The London Police Service is conducting its own separate investigation into the alleged assault. It re-opened its probe of the allegation in response to public criticism. 

Court documents unsealed almost a year ago showed London police investigators believed they had reasonable grounds to accuse five World Junior hockey players with sexually assaulting the woman. None of the police allegations have been proven in court and no charges have been laid.

The NHL has also conducted its own investigation and has not yet released the results publicly. 

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