Although Hockey Canada was only the subject of a lawsuit in April 2022 in relation to a sordid case of alleged sexual assault, the organization learned very quickly about the alleged events, which date back to the late spring of 2018.
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Press was able to confirm, with three sources involved in the investigative process, that Hockey Canada had not waited before entrusting a Toronto law firm with the mandate to conduct an independent investigation. At least one person has been seen less than a month after the alleged assault, which allegedly took place in London, Ontario on the night of June 18-19, 2018.
However, even if the nature of the lurid events has been known internally for nearly four years, Hockey Canada refuses to disclose whether any action has been taken following this investigation, which was concluded at an unspecified time.
We ask if any of the players involved in this case have returned to donning the Maple Leaf uniform on the international stage. Our question remained unanswered. A spokesman referred us to a brief statement.
The small world of Canadian hockey has been in upheaval for the past few weeks. On April 20, a young woman filed a lawsuit against eight former Canadian Hockey League (CHL) players, the league itself and Hockey Canada.
Now 24, she accuses the players, some of whom had just won the gold medal at the junior world championships with the Canadian team, of assaulting her in a hotel room at dawn.
The gang rape allegedly took place hours after a gala hosted by Hockey Canada on the sidelines of its foundation’s annual golf tournament. The organization’s financial partners, as well as many well-known Canadian sports personalities, invariably participate in this prestigious event.
TSN reporter Rick Westhead was the first to report on the case. Citing the 18-page lawsuit filed in the Ontario Superior Court in London, the city where the assault allegedly took place, Westhead described the degrading acts the victim was allegedly coerced into without his consent. The document, which Press has obtained since then, does not identify the young woman or her eight attackers. These are renamed “John Doe” and numbered 1 through 8.
The case was quickly settled out of court. The victim claimed $3.55 million, including $2 million in past and future property damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
No details of the deal have been leaked as of yet and little to no additional information has emerged in the wake of TSN’s report.
The victim would not have filed a complaint with the authorities, and the London police do not confirm the existence of an investigation, ongoing or past. The lawsuit also mentions that the young woman suffered, at the time, pressure from the accused so that she would not report them.
Hockey Canada, immediately after learning of the events, claims to have contacted the police and commissioned an independent internal investigation by Henein Hutchison LLP.
Until now, it was unknown when Hockey Canada was informed. Prayed, Press he learned that the investigation had been launched days after the alleged attack.
The players of the champion team were quickly summoned. At least one of them met in person during the week of July 9, about three weeks after the Hockey Canada gala, confirms a source who has closely followed the process.
For many hours, they were questioned individually about their involvement in this case. Some were able to provide alibis clearing them of all suspicion.
After the gala organized by Hockey Canada, the suspects, along with other teammates, went to Jack’s Yard, a restaurant and bar located in central London. Late at night, the player identified as “John Doe 1” left the scene to go to his hotel room with the victim. This, we read in the lawsuit, was in an advanced state of intoxication.
After the two had sex, the young man “invited all other ‘John Doe’ defendants into the room,” without notifying the victim or seeking her consent, it added.
The group of players questioned as part of the investigation was much larger than that of the suspects. All those who lent themselves to the process, therefore, had to carefully establish, with the investigators, the thread of their afternoon and their night during the interrogations described as rigorous by a person who attended one of them.
Those who claimed to have no connection to the attack were thus able to express themselves. Some, for example, were asleep at the time of the incident. Others simply weren’t in London for the gala.
We were unable to confirm whether all team members had been summoned or how many of them had cooperated in the investigation.
Since the lawsuit identifies the eight suspects as CHL players, goalie Colton Point, as well as defensemen Cale Makar and Dante Fabbro, who were then playing for American college teams, appear to be excluded from the list of possible attackers from the start. Freelance journalist Ken Campbell also established, after contacting Jonah Gadjovich’s agents Cal Foote and Victor Mete, that they were not “John Doe”. Of course, none of this testimony has been proven in court. Keep in mind, however, that Mete, a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization at the time, was in Cancún, Mexico, at the time of the events.
Team leaders were also contacted by telephone by investigators in the weeks or months after the events. This includes Quebecers Dominique Ducharme and Joël Bouchard, respectively head coach and general manager of the gold medal-winning team. Both were present in London on the night of June 18, 2018.
However, with the Hockey Canada gala taking place more than five months after the Junior World Cup, neither Ducharme nor Bouchard were still attached to the team. They had just been hired by the Canadian organization.
According to our information, they left the gala relatively early as they had to fly to Dallas the next morning to join the Habs’ NHL Draft management. Therefore, they were not aware, at that time, of the acts committed and were only informed of the details in recent weeks. The firm in charge of the investigation revealed very little information to them. During interviews much more succinct than those held with the players, the names of the suspects, in particular, were not communicated to them.
Hockey Canada declined to respond to requests for clarification from Press.
In an email, a spokesperson simply referred us to the statement written online from May 26. It is emphasized in particular that no comment will be made and it is recalled that the victim “opted not to speak to the police or to the independent investigators of Hockey Canada”.
After the case came to light just over two weeks ago, the NHL launched an investigation.
The vast majority of the members of Canada’s 2018 champion team are now established professional players. Some are already stars of the circuit.
The Canadian government, at the initiative of Sports Minister Pascale Saint-Onge, launched a financial audit to determine whether public money was used to finance the agreement signed with the victim.
Hockey Canada officials may testify in Ottawa in the next few days. In its 2020-2021 annual report, the organization indicates that government assistance represents 6% of its financing, while 2% comes from contributions from its members, that is, the federations of the country’s provinces and territories.
What Hockey Canada was accused of
This is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing questions in this out-of-court settlement between Hockey Canada and a plaintiff who accused eight players of sexual assault: why did the national federation become the broker in a lawsuit that, at base, emanated from of the gestures reproached to the players?
However, it appears that in addition to the eight players at issue (identified as John Doe and numbered 1 through 8) in the lawsuit, two organizations were attacked: Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), i.e. the grouping of three junior hockey circuits in Canada. These three leagues are the Ontario Junior League (OHL), the Western Junior League (WHL), and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
In pursuit, Press has obtained, Hockey Canada and the CHL are united under the expression “The Hockey League”. Four issues in the lawsuit relate to these two proceedings, including one containing 17 allegations.
Among the complaints, the two organizations are accused of:
- to “ignore or overlook systemic and institutionalized attacks within the organization”;
- of “having been aware for several years that players were sexually assaulted or encouraged to commit sexual assault”;
- of “ignoring a culture and environment that glorifies the sexual exploitation of young women”;
- of “failing to educate members on the standards of conduct on and off the track, specifically in their interactions with women”;
- for “not having expelled the John Does from their teams, and not having imposed sanctions on them”;
- of “failing to investigate the John Does once they became aware of their actions”.
The lawsuit alleges that both instances were “negligent.”
It is not unusual for these suits to encompass so many elements. The burden of proof is significantly less in a civil trial like this than it is in a criminal trial. It is not about proving guilt “beyond reasonable doubt”, but about convincing under the balance of probabilities, that is, showing that one version is more probable than the other version.
Beyond the charges listed above, Hockey Canada and the CHL may also bear some degree of responsibility for the conduct of players under their auspices, we are told. This is the principal-agent relationship principle. This explains why, to give a purely fictitious example, a company can be sued for damages caused by its delivery person in the performance of his duties.
It’s radio silence on both sides of this case. Hockey Canada finally responded to emails from Press at the end of the day on Friday, simply referring to the statement sent to the media on May 26, in which she said she was “concerned” about these complaints.
In this same statement, Hockey Canada claims to have contacted the police authorities, which contradicts paragraph 26, subparagraph n) of the lawsuit, which reads that the accused authorities “did not inform the police of the complaints received for sexual assault.” Hockey Canada also claims to have immediately investigated the events, a statement corroborated by brother Simon-Olivier Lorange.
METERme Rob Talach, the attorney for the alleged victim, also declined to answer our questions. “No comment,” he replied in an email to Press. To Rick Westhead of TSN, Mme Talach said his client was “pleased” and “relieved” that the deal was done.
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