WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it.
Four NHL players face sexual assault charges related to an alleged group incident in 2018 in London, Ont., when they were members of Canada’s World Junior hockey team.
Lawyers for Michael McLeod and Cal Foote of the New Jersey Devils, Dillon Dubé of the Calgary Flames and Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday confirmed the charges. They come two days after 24-year-old Alex Formenton, another member of the 2018 junior team and a former NHL player, showed up at London Police Service headquarters and was charged with sexual assault.
McLeod, Dubé, Foote and Hart, all 25, are on leave from their NHL teams.
“Mr. McLeod denies any criminal wrongdoing,” said David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein in a statement to CBC News.
“He will be pleading not guilty and will vigorously defend the case,” the statement said. “None of the evidence has been presented, let alone tested in court. We ask that the public respect Mr. McLeod’s privacy and his family’s privacy. Because the matter is now before the court, we will not comment further at this time.”
Dubé’s lawyers, Louis Strezos and Kaleigh Davidson, said the native of Golden, B.C., will “plead not guilty and maintains his innocence. He will defend the allegations in court. We ask that you respect the privacy of Mr. Dubé and that of his family. There will be no further comment at this time.”
Dubé’s team, the Calgary Flames, said in a statement that the organization has “now become aware of the charge of sexual assault that has been laid against Dillon Dubé. 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 Dillon’s request for a leave of absence was granted.”
Hart’s lawyer, Megan Savard, confirmed the news about the 25-year-old goaltender from Sherwood Park, Alta., but didn’t provide a statement.
Foote’s lawyer, Julianna Greenspan, said in a statement to CBC News: “Cal is innocent of the charge and will defend himself against this allegation to clear his name.
“What is most critical at this time is the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial that everyone in Canada is entitled to,” Greenspan said. “As the matter is before the court, I ask that Cal’s and his family’s privacy be respected. There will be no further comment at this time.”
Foote was born in Colorado and is the son of Toronto-born former NHL player and current Vancouver Canucks assistant coach Adam Foote.
When contacted by CBC News, the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils referred all inquiries to the NHL.
Charged together, or separately?
London criminal lawyer Nick Cake, who does not represent any of the players but has been watching developments this week, said he’ll be watching to see what police say about the charges on Monday, when they are expected to release more details at a news conference.
“What I’m interested to see is whether they’ll be charged jointly — in other words, they’ll be co-accused with the same alleged crime or whether they’ll all be charged individually,” he told CBC News. “That’s the biggest question I have right now.
“It may make for five separate trials or it may make for one longer, somewhat more complicated trial because you’d have five people in the same courtroom being tried for the same offence,” he said.
This week, the five players now charged from the 2018 team requested and were granted absence leaves from their NHL and European teams. London police have not named any of the accused or provided any specifics about charges.
It’s alleged the incident occurred following a Hockey Canada gala in the southwestern Ontario city in June 2018, when the players were honoured for their victory at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.
Court documents from 2022 revealed London police believed they had reasonable grounds to accuse five players of sexually assaulting a young woman in a hotel room.
The police service closed the case in 2018, then reopened it in 2022 in response to public outrage following a lawsuit.
The alleged victim, known only as E.M. in court documents, sued eight unnamed players, Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League for more than $3.5 million. Hockey Canada settled that lawsuit.
For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, there is support available through crisis lines and local support services via this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.