NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will let the judicial process involving four of the league’s players charged in a 2018 sexual assault case play out before making any decisions, as police in Canada prepare for a news conference discussing the case on Monday.
Bettman addressed the incident publicly for the first time on Friday ahead of All-Star weekend in Toronto.
“At this stage, the most responsible and prudent thing for us to do is await the conclusion of the judicial proceedings, at which point we will respond as appropriate at the time,” Bettman said.
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“The fact that they’re away from their teams and not playing I’m comfortable with. They’ve been paid the vast bulk of their salary for the year anyway. We’re coming down to the stretch run of when compensation is paid to players. That’s not the concern. The concern is to get this right.”
Philadelphia Flyers netminder Carter Hart, Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube, and Michael McLeod and Cal Foote of the New Jersey Devils were the four current NHL players charged with sexual assault.
The charges stemmed from a 2022 complaint against Hockey Canada, when an unidentified woman alleged that she was assaulted by eight members of the world junior gold-medal team following a gala event in 2018.
Former NHL player Alex Formenton, who now plays for a Swiss club, has also been charged. McLeod is facing an additional charge of being a party to the offense of sexual assault.
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The four NHL players took an indefinite leave of absence from their respective clubs before news of the charges was announced. Their lawyers have denied any wrongdoing on their behalf.
Bettman, who called the allegations “abhorrent, reprehensible, horrific and unacceptable,” pointed out that the players involved will not have NHL contracts beyond this current season.
“It becomes irrelevant in terms of the timing,” he said. “They’re all away from their teams on leave, and (then) they’re all free agents. They won’t be under contract after this season anyway. In order to terminate a contract successfully, you need to be able to prove certain things.”
A settlement was quickly and quietly reached in 2022, which led to the revelation that Hockey Canada had two secret funds to pay settlements on claims of sexual assault and abuse.
London police, who have brought the charges against the five players, dropped their investigation in 2019, but an internal review in July 2022 led to the charges filed last week. The NHL also subsequently launched its own investigation in 2022.
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Law enforcement will hold a news conference Monday to discuss the case.
Lawyers representing the five players appeared virtually in a London, Ontario courtroom on Monday morning. None of the players appeared either virtually or in person. The attorneys agreed to waive the reading of the chargers and the next court day was scheduled for April 30.
The judge also issued an order barring any of the parties involved from publicly sharing identifiable information about the accuser or key witnesses.
Fox News’ Henry Naccari and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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