A woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by five hockey players on Canada’s 2018 world junior team—four of whom are currently in the NHL—was publicly apologised to the London, Ontario, police chief on Monday. The apology was for the length of time it took to conclude an investigation into the case, which has rocked the sport for years.
Chief Thai Truong will, however, need to take a lot longer to elaborate on why it took over six years to pursue charges and what caused the initial investigation to be closed in 2019 before being reopened in 2022.
At a press conference attended by numerous media outlets, Truong stated, “I want to extend on behalf of the London Police service my sincere apology to the victim, to her family for the amount of time that it has taken to reach this point.”
It shouldn’t have taken this long. We shouldn’t have to wait years and years to get to the conclusion we have today,” he continued. “However, I promise you that I am very confident that this won’t happen again.”
Regarding the reason for the delay and the impact it had on his department, Truong stated time and time again that he was unable to discuss the specifics because they might jeopardise the case’s prosecution, which might involve calling witnesses who were a part of the first and second investigations.
The 45-minute press conference was the first that police in the fifth-largest city in Ontario, which is located roughly midway between Toronto and Detroit, has addressed the subject since charging the athletes who are said to have assaulted the lady in a downtown hotel room.
Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers, Michael McLeod and Cal Foote of the New Jersey Devils, Dillon Dube of the Calgary Flames, and former NHL player Alex Formenton are the players charged with one count each of sexual assault. In addition, McLeod is charged with “being a party to the offence,” which refers to helping another person carry out the offence, according to the police.
All five players’ attorneys have stated that their clients are innocent and would fight the accusations. All of the players, who are on leave from their teams, turned themselves in to London police throughout the course of the previous week and were then released under unclear circumstances.
As is customary in cases of sexual assault, prosecutors secured an order shielding the name of the lady and two witnesses during a brief video hearing on Monday that was attended only by attorneys. Additionally, defence lawyers would receive “substantial” evidence in the coming days, according to prosecutor Heather Donkers. The next hearing was set for April 30.
The restarted investigation, according to Detective Sgt. Katherine Dann of the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Section, discovered reasonable and probable reasons to file the charges, which carry potential jail time if proven guilty.
Not included in the first probe, Dann managed the investigation once it was reopened under the now-retired police chief Steve Williams. Certain evidence that was found “was not available when the investigation concluded in 2019,” according to her.
Like Truong, Dann was unable to provide many details, such as whether or not other people might face charges. There were 22 players in the squad for 2018.
For years, the case has cast a shadow over Canadian hockey.
Following a charity banquet in London in June 2018, a lady filed a lawsuit against Hockey Canada in 2022, claiming that eight players of the gold-medal winning world junior team had sexually assaulted her in a hotel room. Following the lawsuit’s settlement, Hockey Canada’s two hidden slush funds were discovered to be used for settlements related to allegations of sexual assault and abuse.
In July 2022, London police launched an internal inquiry after ending their previous one in 2019. The NHL began its own inquiry at about the same time, though the findings are probably not going to be made public until the lawsuit is settled.