Bettman plans ‘thorough’ investigation into alleged assault in 2018

MONTREAL — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is determined to conduct a more comprehensive investigation into the alleged sexual assault of a woman by eight Canadian Hockey League players.

Hockey Canada’s own investigation of the incident, by third party investigator Henein Hutchison LLP, was unable to identify the players.

“We’re going to try to do as thorough research as possible to see if we can learn more than Hockey Canada was clearly aware of, either because they didn’t have the information or because there were limitations,” Bettman said. said Thursday, ahead of the NHL Draft at Bell Center.

“Our goal is to get to the bottom of this and get a full understanding of what really happened by whom.”

Hockey Canada, its finances and the organization’s internal reporting structure have been in the spotlight since the June 2018 allegations first became public in May with the settlement of a lawsuit filed by a woman who says she has been sexually assaulted in a London, Ont. hotel room by eight CHL players after a Hockey Canada Foundation golf and gala event. She has not named the players, some of whom were part of the 2017-18 Canadian Junior Men’s National Team, and has made it clear that she wants to keep her own identity private.

The lawsuit, in which the woman sought $3.55 million in damages, was filed in Ontario Superior Court on April 20. The terms of the settlement were not released.

Since the lawsuit went public, Hockey Canada’s government funding has been frozen and several major companies — including Tim Hortons, Bank of Nova Scotia, Esso — have withdrawn their sponsorship of the upcoming World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

Bettman said he is working with the NHL Players’ Association to determine the parameters of the investigation and expects “full cooperation” from all players and their clubs.

“We want them to make sure that their players are available to us and that they tell us the truth,” Bettman said.

“This is terrible. This is terrible. This is unacceptable. But since everyone involved is anonymous, trying to understand exactly what happened is a huge challenge. But we will do our best.”

The investigation will be led by Jared M. Maples, the league’s new senior executive vice president of security, who replaced retired Dennis Cunningham in May.

†[Maples] has a very interesting and diverse background in the field of security. His last position was Director of Homeland Security for the State of New Jersey. You don’t put the rest of his resume on paper,” Bettman said.

Maples served two years with the United States Department of Defense (2004-2006) and ten years with the Central Intelligence Agency (2006-16).

The NHL plans to make the findings of its investigation — if possible — publicly.

“It depends on what we have to do in terms of agreements to get full access to information. We can be put under certain restrictions that if we want certain information, we can’t make it public,” Bettman said.

“I hope that’s not the case. I hope we are in a position to learn all that [happened] and make it public. That is our goal.”

Uncertainty in Russia

Bettman chose his words carefully when discussing the sensitivities surrounding Russian NHLers who may return to North America for training camp in the fall.

“We probably don’t have the full story about what’s going on in terms of what each player’s relationship is in Russia with regard to government, and we’re going to have to respect the process about what’s happening,” Bettman said.

“I don’t want to say anything that could be misunderstood or cause ignition of a sensitive situation. The Russian players who still live in Russia need to make sure they make the best possible decisions for themselves and their families.”

While the NHL informed the Colorado Avalanche that the Stanley Cup will not travel to Russia this summer, Bettman stood by his decision to allow Russian prospects to be selected in the 2022 Draft.

“I saw there was a report saying we were advising clubs not to draft Russians. That’s not true,” Bettman said.

Because the World Cup of Hockey scheduled by the NHL and NHLPA in 2024 is still in its “embryonic stage,” Bettman said, no decision has yet been made on whether or not Russia will be allowed to dress a team in that tournament.

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