Sources confirm NHL players facing charges in sexual assault investigation
Content Warning: The following article contains references to sexual assault.
Four National Hockey League players – Carter Hart, Michael McLeod, Dillon Dube, and Cal Foote – have been directed to surrender to police in London, Ont., to be charged with sexual assault in connection with an alleged incident that occurred during a Hockey Canada event in the city in June 2018, two sources familiar with the matter told TSN.
The players are expected to surrender before the London Police Service holds a press conference on Monday to update the public on the high-profile case.
The Globe and Mail reported on Jan. 24 that London police have instructed five members of Canada’s 2018 World Junior team to surrender to be charged with sexual assault. Former Ottawa Senators player Alex Formenton, who currently plays in Switzerland, reported to police on Jan. 28 to be officially charged.
Gary Ellis, the former head of Toronto Police Service’s sex crimes unit, told TSN in an interview that the players would be photographed, fingerprinted, and directed to sign an undertaking not to have contact with the alleged victim, either the first time they report to police or at a subsequent date.
The five players are accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a London hotel on June 19, 2018, following a Hockey Canada Foundation golf and gala event.
The complainant, a woman referred to as E.M. in court documents, met some of the players at a downtown bar following the event. She has alleged in a civil lawsuit that she left the bar with one man and had consensual sex with him. That man then invited other players to his room, without E.M.’s consent, to have sex with E.M., she alleged.
None of the allegations against the players have been proven.
McLeod’s lawyers, David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein, released a statement Tuesday afternoon, confirming the charge against their client.
“We can now confirm that more than five and half years after EM’s initial complaint to police, the London Police Service has charged Mike McLeod with sexual assault,” the statement reads. “Mr. McLeod denies any criminal wrongdoing. He will be pleading not guilty and will vigorously defend the case.”
Louis P. Strezos and Kaleigh Davidson, counsel for Dube, also released a statement Tuesday confirming their client has been charged.
“[Dube] will defend the allegations in court,” the statement reads. “He will plead not guilty and maintains his innocence. He will defend the allegations in court.”
In a statement released Tuesday evening, the Calgary Flames said they “have now become aware of the charge of sexual assault that has been laid against Dillon Dube. We take this matter very seriously. Because the matter is now pending legal proceedings, we will have no further comment at this time.
“We had no knowledge of pending charges at the time Dillon’s request for a leave of absence was granted,” the statement reads.
Megan Savard and Riaz Sayani, the lawyers for Hart, also confirmed via statement that their client has been charged.
“We act for Carter Hart and 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,” the statement reads.
Julianna Greenspan, counsel for Foote, released a statement late Tuesday to confirm that her client has been charged.
"I can confirm that my client, Cal Foote, was charged with sexual assault. 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. As the matter is before the Court, I ask that Cal's and his family's privacy be respected. There will be no further comment at this time."
London police initially investigated E.M.’s allegations before closing the case in February 2019 without laying charges because the lead detective didn’t believe there was enough evidence.
In May 2022, TSN reported Hockey Canada had – without consulting any players involved in the alleged incident – quietly settled a $3.55-million lawsuit brought by E.M. against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and eight unnamed players in connection to the alleged attack. The story led to parliamentary hearings and a maelstrom of public backlash. The NHL and Hockey Canada commissioned investigations and the London police in July 2022 said they would re-open their investigation.
In October 2022, London police filed a 94-page document in court requesting authorization to seek various court orders. In the filing, which was first reported by The Globe, a London police officer wrote that he believed there were reasonable grounds to believe that five members of the 2018 World Junior team had committed sexual assault in connection to the hotel incident.
The four players who have yet to report to police are all 25 years old and have all taken leaves of absence from their NHL teams.
Hart, a goalie with the Philadelphia Flyers, is playing in his sixth NHL season and in his final year of a three-year, $11.9 million contract.
Dube, a centre with the Calgary Flames, is in his sixth NHL season and is in the final year of a three-year contract worth an average of $2.3 million.
McLeod, a centre with the New Jersey Devils, is in his sixth NHL season. He signed a one-year, $1.4 million contract in July 2023.
Foote, whose father is former NHL defenceman Adam Foote, has played in four games with the Devils this season and also has played in the American Hockey League. He signed a one-year, $800,000 contract in August.