Pro hockey player Alex Formenton, a former member of the NHL's Ottawa Senators who currently plays in Switzerland, has been charged by police in London, Ont., his lawyer said Sunday.
"The London Police have charged several players, including Alex Formenton, in connection with an accusation made in 2018," lead counsel Daniel Brown said in an email. "Alex will vigorously defend his innocence and asks that people not rush to judgment without hearing all of the evidence."
Video footage shows Formenton wearing a grey jacket, dark pants and white shoes as he entered a London police station on Sunday morning with his legal representation. He made no comment.
A followup message left with Brown and a message to Formenton's agent were not immediately returned.
The Globe and Mail, citing two unnamed sources, reported last Wednesday that charges are connected to an alleged group sexual assault of a woman in a London, Ont., hotel room in 2018. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Formenton is one of five players from Canada's 2018 world junior team who recently went on indefinite leave from their pro clubs amid a report that five members of that roster were asked to surrender to face sexual assault charges.
Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers, Michael McLeod and Cal Foote — both of the New Jersey Devils — and Dillon Dubé of the Calgary Flames were also granted leave by their respective NHL teams in recent days.
Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General said last Wednesday that no charges relating to the 2018 incident have been filed in court, and The Canadian Press has no information that connects the players' leaves to the investigation.
Formenton is believed to be the only player who has surrendered.
"We will provide all updates at our press conference scheduled for February 5, 2024," London Police spokesperson Matthew Dawson said Sunday in an email.
Formenton, who was drafted 47th overall in 2017 by the Senators, had a career-high 18 goals and 32 points in 2021-22. He was unable to agree on a new deal as a restricted free agent and signed in Switzerland.
His Swiss club, HC Ambri-Piotta, cited personal reasons for his leave and said he had been allowed to return to Canada.
The Flyers cited personal reasons for Hart's leave. The Flames cited Dube's mental health, while the Devils did not give a reason why McLeod and Foote were granted leave.
The incident is alleged to have occurred following a Hockey Canada gala in June 2018 where the players were honoured for their victory at that year's world junior tournament.
A woman identified as E.M. in court documents filed a $3.55-million lawsuit in the spring of 2022 that was quickly settled out of court by Hockey Canada before TSN first broke the story.
Subsequent revelations that the national organization maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including lawsuits related to sexual assaults, sparked an unprecedented backlash against the sport's governing body.
Hockey Canada's governance and transparency were subsequently called into question, leading to a series of parliamentary hearings.
Hockey Canada officials testified to parliamentarians in June 2022 the organization had "strongly encouraged" — but not mandated — the 19 players at the London gala speak to its own third-party investigators.
The fallout was swift.
The federal government froze funding, while several corporate sponsors paused support. Hockey Canada reopened its third-party investigation in July 2022, adding that player participation was now mandatory.
The Canadian Press was first to report later that month Hockey Canada maintained a fund that drew on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual assault and abuse claims.
After a string of disastrous Parliament Hill appearances in Ottawa, Hockey Canada president and CEO Scott Smith left the organization in October 2022, the same day the entire board of directors resigned.
London police, meanwhile, closed an initial investigation in February 2019 without filing charges, but reopened the case in 2022.
A lead investigator wrote in legal documents filed with Ontario courts in December 2022 there were grounds to believe a woman was sexually assaulted by five players on the junior team.
The NHL also launched its own investigation, which deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in June had concluded.
Along with Hockey Canada and the London police, that made for three separate probes into an incident that has cast a long shadow over the sport in Canada.
Hockey Canada said in November the findings of its independent third-party report are under appeal.
All players from the 2018 junior team have been excluded from international events.
A Hockey Canada official told a parliamentary committee during one of its 2022 hearings that the organization had paid out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual abuse and assault since 1989, not including the London incident.
Smith took on the additional title of CEO from the retiring Tom Renney on July 1, 2022, in the midst of the scandal, but was out three months later amid blistering calls for his resignation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2024.
With files from hockey writer Joshua Clipperton.