Trial date for charged Canada 2018 world junior players remains unclear


The exact dates for a jury trial for five members of Team Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team charged with sexual assault remain unclear after another court appearance Tuesday morning.

Justice Alissa Mitchell conducted a brief virtual hearing Tuesday in a London, Ontario, courtroom, where defense lawyers for the charged appeared by teleconference. Mitchell was told another judicial pre-trial hearing — held on camera and behind closed doors — will take place on July 3. As a result, Mitchell asked representatives to return to the courtroom on August 13 to “potentially” firm up the dates for the jury trial.

In January, the London Police Service charged Alex Formenton, Carter Hart, Dillon Dubé, Michael McLeod and Cal Foote with sexual assault in connection to an alleged incident that occurred in 2018. The five players were charged with one count of sexual assault, with McLeod facing a second charge of sexual assault for “being a party to the offense.”

The charges stem from an alleged June 2018 incident inside a room at the Delta London Armouries Hotel following a Hockey Canada gala at which the team was celebrated for its gold medal win at the 2018 world junior hockey championship.

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Last month, Mitchell set two pre-trial application dates for Sept. 5 and 6 that will be heard before Justice Bruce Thomas. Those could mark the first time the five accused players appear in person in the London courthouse. Until now, only their legal representation has been required to attend the court proceedings.

The Ontario Superior Court has already instituted a publication ban, which will bar the media from reporting anything that may reveal the identity of the alleged victim in the case.

In early April, Crown and defense attorneys agreed to listen to pre-trial motions in the case for three weeks, starting on Nov. 25. With those motions running into December, the expectation is the jury trial won’t commence until the early part of 2025.

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At the end of February, lawyers for the five players confirmed their clients jointly agreed to have a trial by jury. All five players — Formenton, Hart, Dubé, McLeod and Foote — are set to become restricted free agents this summer and do not have NHL contracts for the 2024-25 season.

McLeod, Dubé, Hart and Foote were granted leaves of absence from their NHL teams in January. Formenton received a leave of absence from HC Ambri-Piotta in Switzerland, where he played for the past two seasons.

At the All-Star weekend in Toronto in February, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters it would be unlikely for the players to return to the league before their legal situation is resolved.

“Well, they’re away from their teams now, and they’re all (pending) free agents,” Bettman said. “As a personal matter, if I were them, I would be focusing on defending themselves, assuming the charges come down. And I would be surprised if they’re playing while this is pending.”

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(Photo: Andy Devlin /  Getty Images)



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