For almost four years, the hockey world has been waiting for an update on a heinous report about a gang sexual assault that occurred June 19, 2018 during a Hockey Canada Foundation charity golf event in London, Ontario, Canada. The report first came out in April 2020, when a woman only named as "E.M." made a "statement of claim" that after becoming intoxicated with a man at a local bar, she went back to the hotel where four other men came in and sexually assaulted her. There were reports of the involvement of three others, but that hasn't been confirmed.
An ensuing lawsuit was settled by Hockey Canada, the governing body for hockey in Canada. They have huge pull when it comes to the country's most popular sport. More has come out on that, including previous cases of sexual assault. Rick Westhead of TSN and Katie Strang of The Athletic have both done amazing investigations into this. They are the experts that we should be listening to, but we will focus on this particular incident.
In July of 2022, amidst severe public pressure, London Police reopened the probe into the sexual assault. We've had little to no official updates up until this point, but a report originally from Robyn Doolittle of the Globe and Mail that came out on Wednesday states that police told five players on the 2018 team to surrender to them.
So now we get to Michael McLeod and Cal Foote, two New Jersey Devils players who were on that 2018 team. McLeod was brought back last offseason on a one-year deal, and Foote was signed late to join his brother with the franchise. On Tuesday, less than three hours after the Hockey Canada report came out, the Devils released a statement saying both Foote and McLeod would be taking leave from the team.
With so much information to go through, let's try to figure out what we know for sure. We will not speculate or give an opinion. That will come when we know more. For now, we will stick to the facts as we know them now.
Who is involved?
We don't have the names of the five players who the London Police are targeting. They've said they have no new information to release at this time but would be giving an update to the media as soon as they had one. So, all we have is circumstancial evidence. However, there just happens to be five players on the 2018 Hockey Canada team that have taken leaves of absence from their team.
The first report came from the Calgary Flames when forward Dillon Dube took a leave of absence on Sunday. Yesterday, Philadelphia Flyers goalie Carter Hart also took a leave of absence. When his was announced, that's when the Hockey Canada investigation started to come up on social media. Nothing was substantial, but many fans were trying to connect the dots.
We didn't hear anything until Wednesday morning when the Globe and Mail report came out. That's when many Devils fans realized that both McLeod and Cal Foote were missing at Tuesday night's Devils Youth Foundation charity event. Again, this is all circumstantial evidence. Then, European team HC Ambrí-Piotta announced that Alex Formenton would be taking a leave of absence and had permission to go back to Canada.
What have the Devils said?
The Devils, the only franchise with two such players, sent the final statement around noon on Tuesday. Lindy Ruff met with the media after practice and said he did not know if the investigation was the reason why McLeod and Foote were missing from practice and had to take their leave. Ruff only said that there will be callups to replace both players in the meantime.
When McLeod was first asked about the investigation over the summer, he only said he was "aware of the situation from 2018" and said he could not comment further. While many players had outright denials, McLeod's did seem a lot different. This isn't enough to make any actual opinion on it, but it is something many fans pointed out at the time.
Foote's statement was much more direct. Through his agent Kurt Overhardt, Foote said he was not involved in the "alleged sexual assault." Foote was a free agent at the time.
The Devils and all hockey fans will wait to see if any other players make statements or take leaves of absence. For now, the report says five players are facing possible charges, and five players have taken a leave. This is what we know so far. We will see if London Police have any further statements, or if any of the great journalists working on this will have updates.
We will update this article as more news arises.