Canadian Hockey League (CHL) teams are preparing for the possibility that the identities of players accused of group sexual assault in June 2018 will be released, Sportsnet has learned.
Owners and governors from the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) each received an email on Friday, Aug. 26 that teams can refer to in the event a player from that particular league is identified, as well as common language teams can use when addressing the allegations publicly.
The CHL confirmed to Sportsnet that a memo was sent out to all three leagues but clarified the correspondence is proactive in nature, saying it has no insight or knowledge as to when names would be released.
In a copy of the statement yet to be released and obtained by Sportsnet, the CHL says it “shares the public outrage” over the content of the 2018 allegations, which came to light in May.
“No player has the right to act with impunity,” the statement continues. “We will fully cooperate with the Henein Hutchison and police investigation and expect the criminal justice system to deal with any criminal conduct that is established.”
In April, a woman filed a lawsuit against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and eight players referred to as John Doe 1 through 8 in the statement of claim. In it, she says she was sexually assaulted by eight players -- including members of the 2017-18 Canadian world junior team -- in a London, Ontario (Ont.), hotel room after a Hockey Canada Foundation gala event at which the team was being honoured.
Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit in May, and its handlings of the allegations have been heavily scrutinized in the months since the case became public. Amid public outcry for accountability and transparency and a series of Hockey Canada hearings in Parliament, the federation relaunched its third-party investigation, led by law firm Henein Hutchison. London Police Services also reopened its criminal investigation, which it had initially closed in February 2019 without charges. The NHL is also conducting its own investigation into the matter.
The woman, who is referred to as E.M. in all public documents, participated fully in the criminal investigation following the alleged incident and confirmed through lawyer Robert Talach her participation in reopened investigations.
Danielle Robitaille, partner and lead investigator with Henein Hutchison, told Parliament in July that she had received a statement from the woman and was moving forward with her probe into the case -- a process that includes interviewing every player on the team. Hockey Canada did not make mandatory player participation in 2018, but upon reopening the case has stated that any player who does not take part will be banned from all Hockey Canada events and will be publicly named.
Since allegations first emerged in May, a number of players have released, either via their personal social media or a lawyer or agent on their behalf, statements denying their involvement.
Currently, three police investigations are being conducted into group sexual assault allegations against junior hockey players. In addition to the London investigation, Halifax police are looking into an alleged group sexual assault of a woman during the 2003 world junior tournament involving several members of that year's Canadian team. And Québec City police have reopened an investigation into 2014 allegations against four members of the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques. Police had closed that case in 2015 without charges being laid.