Hockey Canada, CHL settle lawsuit over alleged sexual assault involving World Junior players

Content Warning: The following article contains sexual assault notices

A woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League players, including members of Canada’s gold medalist 2017-18 World Junior Team, has agreed to drop a lawsuit against the players, Hockey Canada and the CHL after they had reached an agreement.

The woman, whose allegations are detailed in court filings filed April 20 in Ontario Superior Court in London, Ontario, claimed she was repeatedly assaulted while drunk in a hotel room after a Hockey Canada Foundation gala and a golf event in town was June 2018.

Hockey Canada and the CHL were named as defendants in the case, as were eight unnamed CHL players, “including but not limited to members of the Canada under-20 men’s junior ice hockey team.” The hockey players are identified as John Does 1-8 in the 18-page lawsuit.

The allegations against the players were never proven in court and none of the defendants retorted.

The plaintiff, identified in court filings as “EM,” asked a judge to award $3.55 million, including $2 million in past and future pecuniary damages, $1 million in punitive damages, $300,000 US$ for Pain and Suffering and US$50,000 for Mental and Emotional Distress.

Robert Talach, the plaintiff’s London-based lawyer, confirmed to TSN that his client had accepted a settlement in the case. He declined to say whether the woman had signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of their settlement.

“The plaintiff is pleased with the outcome and relieved that this difficult matter is now closed,” Talach wrote in an email to TSN on Tuesday. “She has nothing further to add and, consistent with her expressed wishes and conduct, requests that her privacy and wish not to be identified continue to be respected.”

The now 24-year-old woman also claimed in the lawsuit that Hockey Canada was made aware of the alleged assaults and did not investigate or sanction the players involved.

Hockey Canada spokeswoman Esther Madziya said the organization had informed London Police of the allegations.

“Hockey Canada is deeply concerned by the very serious sexual assault allegations against members of the 2017-18 national junior ice hockey team,” Madziya wrote in a statement to TSN. “As soon as Hockey Canada became aware of this matter in 2018, we contacted the local police authorities to let them know. On the same day, we also commissioned Henein Hutchison LLP, a company with extensive experience in this area, to conduct a thorough independent internal investigation and provide recommendations on areas for improvement that we have already implemented and will continue to pursue.

“The person making the allegations has elected not to speak to police or Hockey Canada’s independent investigator, and has also elected not to identify the players involved. That was her right and we fully respect her wish. We have resolved this matter and as part of that settlement we will not be commenting further.”

London Police Service spokeswoman Sandasha Bough wrote in a statement to TSN that the department is not commenting on alleged criminal investigations.

“The London Police Service aims to thoroughly investigate all sexual assault complaints,” Bough wrote. “Together with our community partners, we will give our full support to those who come forward, and we encourage anyone who has experienced sexual violence to report the incident to the police so that the matter can be investigated.”

CHL President Dan MacKenzie wrote in a statement that the league was notified of the lawsuit in early May and was “deeply disturbed by the allegations.”

“We have been informed by Hockey Canada that they have settled the matter and we will have no further comment,” MacKenzie wrote.

According to the lawsuit, the alleged assaults took place in the early morning of June 19, 2018, during a two-day Hockey Canada event in London where the 2017-18 World Junior Team was honored for winning gold by beating Sweden 3-1 was the final on January 5th in Buffalo.

The lawsuit alleges that John Doe’s defendants attended a Hockey Canada Foundation gala on June 18 and went to Jack’s Yard, a bar and restaurant in central London, following the event. The allegation said the plaintiff arrived at the bar at 11pm where she met a hockey player – not listed as a defendant – who introduced her to John Doe 1 and his teammates.

The defendant players allegedly bought the woman a range of alcoholic beverages and shots and she was separated from her friends and became increasingly intoxicated as the night progressed.

The plaintiff said she had shown obvious signs of intoxication including “glassy eyes, slurred speech, stumbling and loss of balance” as she left the bar with one of the players – John Doe 1 – and walked with him to the Delta London Armories Hotel. After she engaged in sexual activity with him, John Doe 1 “invited the rest of John Doe’s defendants into the room without the plaintiff’s knowledge or consent,” the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, the players instructed them to fondle their genitals and perform oral sex on them. The players also allegedly rode the plaintiff while placing their genitals in her face, slapped the plaintiff’s buttocks, spat on her, ejaculated in and on her, had vaginal intercourse with her, pressured her to leave the room when she tried and engaged in other sexual activities with her.

“During the attacks, the plaintiff experienced an ongoing fear of imminent physical harm of a sexual nature,” the lawsuit states. “The actions of the John Doe defendants caused fear and terror among the plaintiffs. John Doe’s defendants were in complete control of the plaintiff and had isolated her from others. The number of men and the fact that they had brought golf clubs into the room further intimidated the plaintiff. As a result, the plaintiff consented to her repeated sexual acts and to being directed to engage in them, but this in no way constituted valid legal consent by the plaintiff.”

The plaintiff claimed that she was too intoxicated to give proper consent.

“At times, the plaintiff cried and attempted to leave the room, but was ordered to remain, manipulated and intimidated, whereupon she was subjected to further sexual assault,” the lawsuit reads.

The plaintiff alleged that the players’ actions amounted to conspiracy because the players allegedly encouraged her to drink alcohol, isolated her from her friends, engaged in sexual activity with her, pressured her not to leave when she tried, instructed telling her she was sober during the videotaping and instructing her to take a shower after the sexual assault was complete.

She also claimed John Doe’s defendants pressured her not to report the players to the police and not to cooperate with a criminal investigation once it was launched.

As a result of the alleged assaults, the plaintiff suffered mental anguish, humiliation, degradation, shame and low self-esteem, her lawsuit said. It also said the incident impacted her ability to complete her education, earn an income and form intimate relationships. She also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, depression and suicidal thoughts, the claim said.

“The plaintiff was required to undergo medical treatment and psychological counseling and will require this throughout her life indefinitely,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit alleged that Hockey Canada, the governing body for amateur hockey in Canada, “ignored or failed to reasonably address institutionalized and systemic abuse” and “was aware that its players had been subjected to sexual assault in recent years and also encouraged sexually harassing others.”

The NHL released the following statement on Thursday:

“Two days ago, the National Hockey League was notified of a sexual allegation lawsuit filed against eight unnamed members of the 2018 Canada junior ice hockey team. We were then presented with the complaint, which contained allegations of conduct that was both despicable and reprehensible. We will endeavor to determine the underlying facts and, as far as this pertains to players currently playing in the NHL, we will determine what action, if any, would be appropriate. We will have no further comment at this time.”

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