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NHL teams did not re-sign 4 ex-world juniors players accused of sexual assault

The four NHL players who played on Canada’s gold medal-winning 2018 world junior team and who were charged with sexual assault are now free agents after their teams did not re-sign them.

Carter Hart, Michael McLeod, Cal Foote and Dillon Dube did not receive offers from their teams by the Sunday deadline.

London police charged them, along with Alex Formenton, who played in a Swiss league for the past two seasons, in February for an alleged group sexual assault in 2018.

The players are still awaiting trial and their lawyers have said they deny the allegations.

A woman sued Hockey Canada in 2022, alleging she was sexually assaulted by eight members of Canada’s world junior team after a fundraising gala in London in 2018.

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Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit, and then an investigation revealed the organization had two secret funds to pay settlements on claims of sexual assault and abuse.

According to London Det. Sgt. Katherine Dann, the alleged incident happened in the early morning hours of June 19, 2018, after one of the accused met the victim at a bar and took her to Delta Hotel London Armouries.

According to court documents previously available, the woman, then 20, alleged that “John Doe #1” took her to a hotel room and invited seven other men into the room to perform undisclosed sexual acts, intimidating her and preventing her from leaving.

The woman said in the lawsuit the men directed her to take a shower and asked her to say on video she was sober.

Click to play video: 'Hockey Canada CEO says organization undergoing major changes in midst of sexual assault case'

Hockey Canada CEO says organization undergoing major changes in midst of sexual assault case

Dann said London police received a call later on June 19, 2018, from a relative of the victim and launched an investigation. That was closed in 2019 with no charges.

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The 2022 suit, which sought $3.55 million in damages and was dropped after the settlement was reached with Hockey Canada, led to police reopening the investigation and the charges against five members of that team.

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Asked about additional players, Dann said in February that charges have been laid “for all the charges we have reasonable grounds for.”

The NHL launched its own investigation in 2022. Officials pledged to release the findings, though commissioner Gary Bettman said in February that would depend on what the league can say given legal proceedings.

Hart, formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers; McLeod and Foote, formerly of the New Jersey Devils; Dube, formerly of the Calgary Flames; and ex-NHL player Alex Formenton, now with the Swiss club HC Ambri-Piotta, have been charged with sexual assault.

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McLeod is facing an additional charge of being a party to the offence of sexual assault, which Dann said was for aiding someone else in committing an offence.

Attorneys for all five said the players are not guilty and will fight the allegations. The four NHL players were on paid leave from their teams until the end of June.

Hart was the Flyers’ No. 1 goaltender, while McLeod and Dube were regulars. Foote, a defenceman and son of former NHL player Adam Foote, primarily spent this past season in the American Hockey League.

Formenton played in 109 games for the Ottawa Senators from 2017 through 2022 before going to Europe.

Attorneys for the players involved have requested and been granted a trial by jury. A virtual hearing in June set the stage for another on July 3.

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Another court date has been scheduled for Aug. 13 to potentially firm up the date for the trial to begin.

Bettman earlier in the year said he “would be surprised” if any of them play before the case is resolved.

If the players are convicted of sexual assault, Canadian law includes jail sentences, depending on several factors, including the age of the accuser.

Bettman made it clear the league will let the legal case play out before taking any steps. He also pointed out that the four NHL players do not have contracts beyond this season.

“They’re all away from their teams on leave, and (then) they’re all free agents,” Bettman said. “They won’t be under contract after this season anyway.”

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The NHL’s investigation has not been released and will presumably remain that way until the case is resolved.

Whatever the court decides, Bettman has wide latitude to make decisions in the interest of the game when it comes to off-ice behaviour. The league in 2019 suspended Los Angeles Kings defenceman Slava Voynov for the 2019-20 season and ensuing playoffs after determining he committed acts of domestic violence. Shane Pinto was suspended for 41 games for violating the league’s gambling policy.

There is an appeals process through the NHL Players’ Association and an arbitrator jointly hired by the league and union to rule on disputes, when necessary.

Hockey Canada, meanwhile, has already lost several sponsors, including Nike, and its CEO and board resigned in 2022 in the wake of this and other scandals.

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