NHL players Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers, Michael McLeod and Cal Foote of the New Jersey Devils and Dillon Dube of the Calgary Flames have been charged with sexual assault in connection with an alleged assault by several members of Canada’s 2018 world junior team.
Attorneys representing Hart, McLeod, Foote and Dube said Tuesday that each player has been charged with sexual assault by police in London, Ontario. They denied any wrongdoing on behalf of their clients.
Hart’s lawyers, Megan Savard and Riaz Sayani, said their client is facing one count of sexual assault, adding, “He is innocent and will provide a full response to this false accusation in the proper forum, a court of law.”
Legal teams representing McLeod and Dube said the players would be pleading not guilty.
“(We) will vigorously defend the case,” McLeod’s attorneys, David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein, said in a statement. “We ask that the public respect Mr. McLeod’s privacy, and his family’s privacy. Because the matter is now before the court, we will not comment further at this time.”
FILE – Calgary Flames center Dillon Dube (29) skates against the Detroit Red Wings in the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Detroit. Michael McLeod of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and Dube of the Flames have been charged in connection with an investigation into an alleged sexual assault by several members of Canada’s 2018 world junior team. Lawyers for each player say they will plead not guilty in London, Ontario. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Dube’s lawyers, Louis Strezos and Kayleigh Davidson, said their client “maintains his innocence (and) will defend the allegations in court.”
Foote’s lawyer, Julianna Greenspan, said her client was “innocent of the charge and will defend himself against this allegation to clear his name.”
“What is most critical at this time is the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial that everyone in Canada is entitled to,” Greenspan said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. “As the matter is before the court, I ask that Cal’s and his family’s privacy be respected.”
A Devils spokesperson said the organization is aware of the reports and have been told to refer all inquiries to the league. A Flyers spokesman echoed a similar sentiment.
FILE – New Jersey Devils’ Michael McLeod watches during a break in an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, in Philadelphia. McLeod has been charged in connection with an investigation into an alleged sexual assault by several members of Canada’s 2018 world junior team, his lawyers said Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
“We will respond appropriately to this very serious matter when the outcomes of the investigations are made public,” the team said in a statement emailed to the AP. “The NHL has been very clear that teams should refer all investigation-related questions to them. In the meantime, members of the organization, including Flyers players, will not be commenting further.”
A messages sent to the Flames seeking comment was not immediately returned.
The NHL was not expected to address the situation Tuesday. Commissioner Gary Bettman is set to speak at the league’s upcoming All-Star Weekend.
The latest developments in the case come two days after former NHL player Alex Formenton surrendered to police to face charges. Attorney Daniel Brown said Formenton is innocent “and asks that people not rush to judgment without hearing all of the evidence.”
All five players have taken leave from their current clubs over the past 10 days. Their agents have not spoken publicly since.
London police have scheduled a news conference for Monday to address the situation. A spokesperson for police told the AP by email no updates on the investigation will be provided before the news conference.
London police launched their investigation in 2022 after it was disclosed that Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit with a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by eight members of that gold medal-winning team after a fundraising gala. London is approximately halfway between Toronto and Detroit.
According to court documents, the woman, then 20, alleged that a man, identified only as “John Doe #1,” took her from a bar to a hotel room and invited seven other people 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 that she was sober.
The woman sought $3.55 million in damages and dropped the lawsuit after reaching a settlement with Hockey Canada.
The NHL opened its own investigation in 2022 and has pledged to make those findings public. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly last week said the league would issue a statement if and when it is appropriate.
The Flyers said Hart requested and was granted a leave of absence for personal reasons. General manager Daniel Briere declined to provide details when asked follow-up questions related to the 25-year-old No. 1 goaltender’s departure.
The Devils did not give a reason when announcing McLeod and Foote were granted indefinite leaves of absence. McLeod, who turns 26 on Saturday, is in the middle of his fourth full season with the team, while Foote — son of former NHL player Adam Foote — has spent much of this season in the American Hockey League and appeared in four games for New Jersey.
The Flames said Dube was on indefinite leave to tend to his mental health. The 25-year-old has played in the NHL with Calgary since 2018.
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