Four NHL players charged in Canada over 2018 sexual assault

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Police in Canada have charged four National Hockey League players in connection to an alleged 2018 group sexual assault, their lawyers say.

The NHL players are Mike McLeod and Cal Foote with the New Jersey Devils, the Philadelphia Flyers’ Carter Hart, and the Calgary Flames’ Dillon Dubé.

Former NHL player Alex Formenton has also been charged for the same incident.

Lawyers for all five players say they intend to plead not guilty.

The five were members of Canada’s World Junior ice hockey team when the alleged assault took place.

Lawyers for Mr McLeod, 25, confirmed that he has been charged in a statement to the media on Tuesday.

“Mr McLeod denies any criminal wrongdoing,” said lawyers David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein. “He will be pleading not guilty and will vigorously defend the case.”

In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday, lawyers for Mr Hart, 25, also confirmed that he had been charged.

“He is innocent and will provide a full response to this false allegation in the proper forum, a court of law,” said lawyers Megan Savard and Riaz Sayani. “Until then, we have no comment.”

Louis Strezos and Kaleigh Davidson, who represent Mr Dubé, 25, said their client “will plead not guilty and maintains his innocence”.

Lawyer Julianna Greespan, who represents Mr Foote, 25, said “Cal is innocent of the charge and will defend himself against this allegation to clear his name”.

Mr Formenton, 24, who plays for Swiss hockey club Ambri-Piotta, surrendered to police on Sunday.

His lawyers said in a statement that he “will vigorously defend his innocence and asks that people not rush to judgment without hearing all of the evidence”.

All players were reported to have taken a leave of absence from their teams last week.

The charges are tied to an alleged sexual assault that took place in London, about 190km (118 miles) southwest of Toronto, in 2018, following a Hockey Canada Foundation fundraising event in the city.

A 24-year-old woman initially filed a lawsuit against Hockey Canada – which manages programmes and teams in the country from entry-level all the way to world championships and the Olympic Games – alleging that she had been assaulted by eight players on Canada’s World Junior team in a hotel room that night.

In her lawsuit, she said she felt pressured not to report the incident to the police.

In May 2022, sports network TSN revealed Hockey Canada had quietly reached a settlement with the woman.

The revelation was met with national outcry in Canada, resulting in the organisation losing federal funding and several high-profile sponsorship deals.

Subsequent reporting by the Globe and Mail newspaper also revealed that Hockey Canada had set up a National Equity Fund – made up of membership fees paid by young players across the country – to settle past sexual assault claims.

Police in London later reopened their investigation into the alleged assault.

The London Police Service has said that it will release further information related to the investigation at a news conference on 5 February.

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