Hidden Secrets: Canadian World Junior Players Face Pending Sexual Assault Charges After Years of Secrecy

London, Ontario – On a clear June morning six years ago, members of the gold-medal winning Canadian World Junior team, along with officials from Hockey Canada, gathered at the London Hunt Club for a golf tournament. Clad in matching red polos with black collars, the players played on while unaware that a young woman had just claimed she was sexually assaulted by several of their teammates. It wasn’t until that evening that Hockey Canada finally contacted the London Police.

Fast forward to the present, and according to recent reporting, five members of the 2018 Canadian World Junior team have been instructed to surrender to the police to face charges of sexual assault. This revelation has shone a light on six years of secrecy, cover-ups, and attempts to avoid accountability by those involved. The initial delay in reporting the assault to the police was just the first in a long line of obfuscations that aimed to protect both organizations and the accused, rather than seeking justice for the victim.

Within the close-knit fraternity of hockey, questions arise about just how widely known the allegations against the World Junior players were. Did other players, agents, or team executives have knowledge of the incident? And if so, why was this information never revealed? These questions highlight a pattern of sexual violence within the junior hockey community that has been ignored and dismissed for decades.

The London Police concluded their initial investigation in February 2019, citing insufficient evidence to lay charges. This decision was in line with findings from a previous investigation by journalist Robyn Doolittle, which revealed a troubling trend of sexual assault claims being dismissed as baseless in Canada. Despite these findings, details about what transpired after the 2018 Hockey Canada Foundation gala were hidden from the public.

The allegations may have remained buried had it not been for a subsequent lawsuit filed against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League, and eight players in April 2022. Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit out of court, aiming to keep the allegations confidential. However, when TSN reporter Rick Westhead learned of the lawsuit and subsequent settlement, a series of investigations into the incident were sparked.

The revelations brought to light a culture of silence and secrecy within Hockey Canada. The organization was discovered to have a secret multi-million dollar fund to settle sexual assault cases, with funds sourced from registration fees paid by parents of youth hockey players across the country. This revelation triggered public outrage, leading to parliamentary hearings and the resignation of Hockey Canada’s CEO and board of directors.

As scrutiny intensified, the London Police Service reopened their investigation in July 2022. Media attention intensified, revealing firsthand accounts of World Junior team members plying young women with alcohol at a bar and attempting to bring them back to a hotel. Various forms of evidence, including photos, videos, and text messages, began to paint a picture of what occurred that night.

Public speculation and an insatiable hunger for details put pressure on the unnamed complainant, who pleaded for privacy, while names of the World Junior team members occasionally trended on social media. The balance between seeking justice and protecting privacy was tested as the case progressed.

Months later, in December 2022, the London Police filed a court application seeking more investigative powers, asserting reasonable grounds to believe that five hockey players had committed sexual assault. The application detailed interviews with both the complainant and the players allegedly involved, as well as evidence of attempts to pressure the complainant into withdrawal her complaint.

Since then, the potential charges have hung over the heads of the former World Junior team members, who have been prohibited from representing Canada in international hockey events pending an internal investigation by Hockey Canada. However, the details and findings of this investigation have remained hidden, leaving many questions unanswered.

The NHL also launched its own investigation and promised to make its findings public. However, as of yet, no details of that investigation have been revealed. Now, five players from the junior team will reportedly face charges, and the London Police have scheduled a press conference to discuss the case. Legal proceedings are expected to be lengthy.

Hockey Canada, the NHL, and the NHL Players’ Association have remained silent on the pending charges. As the situation unfolds, many questions remain about who was protected and whether justice was truly the priority from the beginning. The initial response to the allegations was focused on mitigating damage to the hockey establishment rather than seeking the truth.

This case serves as a reminder of the deep-rooted issues surrounding sexual violence within the hockey community and the urgent need for transparency and accountability. A dark cloud of secrecy has followed this incident for six years, but now, the search for answers has only just begun.