Four NHL players were charged with sexual assault in London, Ontario, on Tuesday, their respective legal teams confirmed to ESPN.
Lawyers for Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube, and New Jersey Devils center Michael McLeod and defenseman Cal Foote, all members of Canada’s 2018 World Junior Championships team, addressed the situation later Tuesday. All four players had previously been granted leaves of absence from their NHL teams.
Speaking for Hart, Megan Savard and Riaz Sayani, from Savard Foy LLP in Toronto, emailed ESPN to “confirm he has been charged with one count of sexual assault. He is innocent and will provide a full response to this false allegation in the proper forum, a court of law.”
In another correspondence with ESPN, McLeod’s lawyers — David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein of Greenspan Humphrey Weinstein LLP in Toronto — added that “McLeod denies any criminal wrongdoing. He will be pleading not guilty and will vigorously defend the case. None of the evidence has been presented, let alone tested in court.”
Julianna Greenspan of Greenspan Partners LLP in Toronto, the representation for Foote, later emailed ESPN saying “Cal is 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.”
And finally, in a Tuesday night statement to ESPN, Louis P. Strezos and Kaleigh Davidson, Dube’s representation, said “he will plead not guilty and maintains his innocence. He will defend the allegations in court.”
Former NHL player Alex Formenton, who was playing professionally in Switzerland, turned himself in to London Police on Sunday. Formenton’s lawyer declined to state the exact charges his client was facing but said in a statement: “Alex will vigorously defend his innocence and asks that people not rush to judgment without hearing all of the evidence.”
London Police has scheduled a news conference for Monday to address the situation.
The police department launched an investigation in 2022 after TSN reported that Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit with a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by eight members of that team after a gala celebrating their gold medal win at the World Junior Championship. That incident allegedly occurred in 2018.
The Globe and Mail was first to report on the pending charges last week, which prompted the players to step away from their teams. The four NHL players have been on paid leave, according to sources. However, league sources said the players’ statuses with their respective teams will likely change if charges are pressed — they could face suspension, by their teams or by the NHL, see their contracts terminated, or end up on a commissioner’s exempt list. The players are all 25 years old.
The Flames, in a statement later Tuesday night, said they didn’t know about the pending sexual assault charge against Dube when they granted his request for a leave of absence on Jan. 21. The club previously said Dube was tending to his mental health.
Sources told ESPN that some of the players were directed by their lawyers not to tell their NHL teams any details about the potential charges.
Flyers general manager Danny Briere told reporters last week that he wasn’t sure what was going to happen with Hart.
“We are aware of this morning’s press reports on a very serious matter. We will respond appropriately when the outcomes of the investigations are made public,” Briere said. “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 any further.”
The NHL completed its own investigation of the incident but has not made the results public. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday the league would not be commenting at this time.