Lawyers appeared in court for the first time via video conference this morning (Feb. 5) in the high-profile sexual assault case involving five members of Canada's 2018 national junior hockey team, including Cochrane's Dillon Dubé.
Flames forward Dubé, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart; New Jersey Devils defenseman Cal Foote; and Alex Formenton, a former Ottawa Senators player now with Swiss club HC Ambri-Piotta have all been charged with one count of sexual assault. New Jersey Devils forward Michael McLeod faces an additional count of sexual assault “by being a party to the offence.”
None of the allegations have been tested in court and all five are expected to plead not guilty.
In an afternoon press conference, London Police Services apologized to the victim of the alleged 2018 sexual assault, identified as E. M., for delays in the case against the players.
"I want to extend, on behalf of the London Police Service, my sincerest apology to the victim, to her family, for the amount of time that it has taken to reach this point," London Police Chief Thai Truong said during a press conference. "It's not something, as the chief of police, that I am happy about, that it took six years."
Both Chief Thai Truong and Det.-Sgt. Katherine Dann, who heads up the reopened investigation, were probed extensively during 45-minute press conference but declined to provide further details, citing the need to protect the case.
The comprehensive review initiated in July 2022 led to the charges.
On June 18, 2018, the accused were in London to celebrate their gold medal win with teammates at a Hockey Canada event. Some team members continued the celebration at Jack's a downtown London bar, where they met the victim, Det.-Sgt. Dann stated at the press conference.
"In the early morning hours of June 19, 2018, the victim attended the Delta London Armouries Hotel with one of the accused," she said. "The other four accused attended the same hotel, and this is where the offense took place. Later that morning, our service received a phone call from an individual related to the victim in this matter, seeking advice regarding a sexual assault."
Det.-Sgt. Dann said no other charges are stemming from the investigation.
In a statement today, Hockey Canada said it has cooperated fully with the London Police Service throughout its investigation and are committed to continuing to support the legal process.
In November 2023, it was announced that a notice of appeal was filed in response to the final adjudicative report by an independent panel that held a hearing with a view to determine whether certain members of the 2018 National Junior Team breached Hockey Canada’s code of conduct, and if so, what sanctions should be imposed against those players.
Pending the completion of the appeal process, all players from the 2018 National Junior Team remain suspended by Hockey Canada, and are ineligible to play, coach, officiate or volunteer with Hockey Canada-sanctioned programs.
“Hockey Canada recognizes that in the past we have been too slow to act and that in order to deliver the meaningful change that Canadians expect of us, we must work diligently and urgently to ensure that we are putting in place the necessary measures to regain their trust, and provide all participants with a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment on and off the ice,” states Katherine Henderson, president and chief executive officer of Hockey Canada.
During his NHL All-Star Weekend press conference, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he does not believe the four NHL players will return to their teams this season.
"They're away from their teams now and they're all [restricted] free agents [after this season]," Commissioner Bettman stated. “As a personal matter, if I were them, I'd be focusing on defending themselves assuming the charges come down. I would be surprised if they're playing while this is pending."
He said the NHL first learned about the alleged sexual assault on May, 26, 2022 after Hockey Canada and the London Police Service finished initial investigations that were inconclusive.
It conducted its own 12-month investigation concurrently with the reopened investigation by London Police Service and Hockey Canada that saw its investigators reviewed volumes of information and conducted interviews with all players on the 2018 team as well as other relevant individuals willing to participate in the investigation.
He did not comment on whether the investigation yielded a conclusion of wrongdoing, nor will any of the information gathered be released at this time.
The next court date is set for Apr. 30, at which time it is questionable if any of the accused players will appear in court.