Hockey Canada says members of 2003 national junior team accused of sexual assault

·3-min read

(Reuters) - Hockey Canada said on Friday it has been informed about another alleged group sexual assault from 2003 involving members of the national junior team and has asked anyone with knowledge of the incident to speak to police.

The national governing body, already under fire this year over its handling of a separate alleged sexual assault and out-of-court settlement, said it learned of the new allegations late on Thursday when contacted by a reporter.

Hockey Canada said it received "disturbing details" of the alleged incident from a journalist who told the organization he spoke to witnesses that provided him with explicit descriptions of an assault during the world junior championships in Halifax.

After learning of the alleged assault, Hockey Canada said it immediately contacted police in Halifax, which was a co-host of the 2003 world junior championship, and Sport Canada.

"We believe the alleged incident from 2003 should be investigated by the authorities, and we urge the police to open an investigation into this disturbing situation," Hockey Canada said in a statement.

"Hockey Canada will cooperate with and support the authorities in every way we can, and we once again urge anyone who may have relevant information about this alleged incident to contact Halifax police immediately."

Hockey Canada said its staff heard a rumour two weeks ago about "something bad at the 2003 world juniors" but were given no details.

The organization hired a third-party investigator to try to find more information but were unable to learn anything before receiving the details from the journalist on Thursday.

The National Hockey League said in a statement that it was made aware earlier on Friday of the "horrific allegations" against members of the 2003 Canadian junior team and will look into them and respond appropriately.

The latest alleged incident comes a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the national governing body needs a "real reckoning" amid the fallout from a separate alleged sexual assault.

In April, a woman filed a lawsuit in which she alleged that she was sexually assaulted in a London, Ontario, hotel room by eight hockey players following a Hockey Canada golf and gala event in 2018.

Hockey Canada settled the lawsuit in May and said this week it would no longer use a fund that was financed by registration fees of players across the hockey-loving country to handle sex assault claims.

The allegations against the unnamed players of the country's 2018 world junior team have not been proved in court.

London police, whose eight-month investigation into the alleged 2018 incident ended in February 2019 with no criminal charges being laid, said on Friday a criminal investigation has been re-opened to explore further investigative opportunities.

The Canadian federal government has since frozen funding to Hockey Canada over its handling of the alleged sexual assault and out-of-court settlement, while a number of sponsors have paused their relationship with the organization.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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