Yesterday, the London, Ontario Police held a press conference about the five members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior team in the alleged sexual assault incident. It has been known that Michael McLeod, Cal Foote, Carter Hart, Dillon Dube, and Alex Formenton have been charged. Since the initial reports came out on January 30, there have been further developments before and from the press conference.
First: Each of the five have been charged with one count of sexual assault. Michael McLeod has been given two charges. Rick Westhead initially reported the charges made in court documents on February with McLeod’s second charge being, quote, “being a party to the offense.” During the press conference, it was clarified that the second charge was for aiding someone in committing the offense. Per TSN’s coverage of the press conference, the lawyers for all five players have stated they will plead not guilty.
Second: There was a hearing before the press conference. The prosecution secured orders for identity protection for the victim as well as two witnesses. It was also established that the next date in court will be April 30. Defense attorneys would receive evidence in disclosure in the coming days.
Third: The press conference also provided some further details about the investigation. In the press conference, Detective Sargent Katherine Dann of the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Section oversaw the investigation after it was re-opened. Per the AP article by John Wawrow and Stephen Whyno, there was evidence found that “was not available when the investigation concluded in 2019,” per Dann. Further, she said that the re-opened investigation found reasonable and probable grounds for the charges. London, Ontario Police Service Chief Thai Troung apologized for the length of time in the investigation.
Fourth: It was confirmed by Darren Dreger yesterday evening that the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, and Calgary Flames will receive cap relief for the players who have taken a leave of absence from their teams and surrendered to the London, Ontario police.
Fifth: During a press conference during the NHL All Star Weekend, Robyn Doolittle reported that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated that suspension of the players was not necessary.
Sixth: Hockey Canada has released a statement on the day of the press conference staring that all players from the 2018 Canadian World Junior team are suspended and are, quote, “ineligible to play, coach, officiate or volunteer with Hockey Canada-sanctioned programs.” This impacts everyone on that team.
Putting this all together, here is what is now known:
All five players have been formally charged with McLeod receiving a second charge. Per Article 18-A.5 of the NHL Contract Bargaining Agreement, Bettman has the power to suspend a player under criminal investigation pending the league’s formal review and disposition of the matter. However, with court proceedings at the time - it is now known that the next hearing date is scheduled for April 30 - the season will be over before the matter is dispositioned. The last date of the regular season will be on April 18. So a league suspension may not be possible. And termination would require an actual judgment, which is also not expected to happen by April 18. All four NHL players are pending free agents; their current contracts will end before that court date. And the three NHL teams have received relief to the cap as if they were no longer with the team. For all intents and purposes, these four are not playing another NHL game this season.
Further, from the press conference, that this re-opened investigation found additional information that was not known during the initial investigation in 2018 and 2019. Those who want to cite or refer to that case is not necessarily going to be aligned with current proceedings. It will take time before the proceedings begin and that information comes to light since the next hearing date is on April 30, not necessarily the first day of the case presented in court. I strongly recommend that those speculating or claiming to know what happened or alleging who did what exactly should cease such discussion because, again, the investigation was re-opened and found additional information. Information that the defense attorneys will be receiving in coming days.
When further developments are reported, there will be more to share. As consistent with the previous post about this incident, there is no further discussion. To that end, comments will remain closed.