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NHL promises transparency in Hockey Canada investigation, plans to release findings

Editor’s Note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be distressing for some readers.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, those in Canada can find province-specific centres, crisis lines and services here. For readers in America, a list of resources and references for survivors and their loved ones can be found here.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman promised Wednesday to be “transparent” in the league’s investigation into the alleged sexual assault involving members of the 2018 Canadian world junior team.

Speaking during a media availability before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Denver, Bettman added that the NHL intends to release the findings of its investigation.

“I assume so… unless the only access we have to certain information would prohibit us from doing that,” he said. “But in the ordinary course, we try to be transparent.”

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters the league plans to interview all members of the 2018 Canadian team. The NHL Players’ Association is cooperating with the investigation, he said.

“They’ve been cooperative, extremely cooperative to this point, in facilitating and arranging interviews with each of the players,” Daly said. “We expect to be able to interview each of the players on that (2018 Canadian national junior) team. And we’ve also been in contact with Hockey Canada, obviously, as well. So, it’s underway.”

Bettman said the NHL learned of the incident when it learned of the lawsuit. The lawsuit was settled on April 20.

“We didn’t know anything about it until then,” he said. “And again, as we conduct the investigation, you have allegations from an anonymous party against eight anonymous parties; this is a challenging situation. But we didn’t know anything about it until then.”

In April, a woman filed a lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court in London, Ont., alleging she was sexually assaulted in June 2018 by eight Canadian Hockey League players, including some members of the 2017-18 Canadian world junior championship team. The alleged incident occurred in a London hotel room after a Hockey Canada Foundation event. The woman, who wishes not to reveal her identity, did not name the players involved – they are referred to as John Does 1-8 in the official statement of claim.

The allegations have not been heard in a court of law. The terms of the settlement involving Hockey Canada, the CHL, and the eight players, were not disclosed.

In a statement, Hockey Canada said that when it became aware of the allegations in 2018 it hired Henein Hutchison LLP to “undertake a thorough independent internal investigation and make recommendations on areas for improvement which we have been implementing and will continue to pursue.” Hockey Canada said the person making the allegations chose not to speak with police or Hockey Canada’s independent investigator.

Since the defendants could potentially now be NHL players, that league is now conducting its own analysis.

“The National Hockey League was advised of a lawsuit involving sexual allegations filed against eight unnamed members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior hockey team,” the NHL said previously in a statement.

“We were subsequently provided with the statement of claim, containing allegations of behaviour that is both abhorrent and reprehensible.

“We will endeavour to determine the underlying facts and, to the extent this may involve players who are now in the NHL, we will determine what action, if any, would be appropriate.”

Officials from Hockey Canada will testify before the federal government’s Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Monday about the organization’s handling of the allegations and lawsuit. The organization said in a statement that it “welcomes” the opportunity to testify in Ottawa and that “no government funds were used in the recent settlement of the lawsuit.”

The four Hockey Canada officials who will appear in Ottawa for questions are outgoing CEO Tom Renney, who announced April 20 that he will step down effective July 1; president and COO Scott Smith, who is slated to replace Renney as CEO this summer; former VP Glen McCurdie, who served as senior VP of insurance and risk management from July 2018 to December 2021; and David Andrews, chair of the Hockey Canada Foundation board of directors.

The session will be made public.

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Written by Sportsnet

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