A former National Hockey League player has been charged in Canada with sexual assault, his lawyer confirmed, the latest development in a case that has sent shockwaves through the sport’s Canadian governing body and angered many people across the country .
Four more players are expected to report to the police force in London, Ontario, in the coming days, according to a postponement in The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based newspaper.
“London police have charged several players, including Alex Formenton, in connection with an allegation made in 2018,” Dan Brown, Mr. Formenton’s lawyer, said in an emailed statement. “Alex will vigorously defend his innocence and asks people not to rush to judgment without hearing all the evidence.”
Mr. Brown’s statement did not specify what his client was accused of.
After playing with the Ottawa Senators in the NHL, Mr. Formenton, 24, moved to Switzerland to play there for a professional team, the Ambri-Piotta Hockey Club. The club, in the declaration On Wednesday, he said Mr. Formenton would be allowed to return to Canada on indefinite leave for personal reasons.
The sexual assault allegation was reported to police in 2018, when the players were members of Canada’s junior national team, and has created a huge firestorm over the years, even in a sport with a long history of similar allegations.
It led to a clean sweep of the board of directors and leadership of Hockey Canada, the sport’s national governing body, prompted an exodus of sponsors, cut government funding for the sport, spurred a parliamentary inquiry and sparked fierce rebukes from the public and political figures. , including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
As members of the national junior team, the accused players won the 2018 world junior championships. Their high profile intensified public reaction to the assault allegations. The junior championships are a televised ritual in Canada that is second only to the Stanley Cup playoffs in terms of television viewership among annual sporting events.
The woman making the allegation reported she was sexually assaulted in June 2018, after a Hockey Canada fundraising gala in London, Ontario. The city’s police force initially looked into the allegation in 2018, but abandoned the investigation in 2019 without filing any charges.
The protests died down until May 2022, when TSN, a sports television network, reported that Hockey Canada paid C$3.5 million, or $2.6 million, to resolve a case by the woman, identified in court documents as “EM”
She alleged in the April 2022 lawsuit that the incident occurred after she was introduced to men at a bar and was sexually assaulted by eight members of the team for several hours after the 2018 gala. It’s unclear whether any of the other accused team members will face criminal prosecution.
Public outrage further inflamed after The Globe and Mail reported in July 2022 that the deal the cash came from a fund generated from hockey registration fees, including those for children.
The fund, Hockey Canada acknowledged, was used to pay an additional C$7.6 million, or $5.65 million, to resolve nine claims of sexual assault and sexual abuse since 1989. Further allegations of sexual assault involving a junior national team from 2003 have emerged in 2022.
London Police restarted the investigation in 2022, after the legal settlement was postponed.
Hockey Canada and the NHL have also conducted investigations, but have yet to release their findings.
In a post on X, Pascale St-Onge, who was federal sports minister in 2022, said that “Canadians were disgusted and shocked to see this story and others like it. It is gratifying to see this process move forward.”
He added: “We look forward to justice being served. The victims must be listened to.”
Miles Bolton contributed reporting from London, Ontario.