By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) – New Jersey Devils forward Mike McLeod and Dillon Dube of the Calgary Flames have been charged by police in London, Ontario in connection with an investigation into an alleged sexual assault by members of Canada’s 2018 world junior team, their lawyers said on Tuesday.

News of the charges against McLeod and Dube comes two days after former National Hockey League (NHL) player Alex Formenton appeared at London Police Service headquarters where he was also charged with sexual assault.

The charges are related to an alleged group sexual assault of a woman in June 2018 following a Hockey Canada golf and gala event where the junior team was being honoured for their gold medal win at the world junior championships.

Lawyers for both NHL players said their clients will plead not guilty.

“Mr. McLeod denies any criminal wrongdoing,” David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein of Toronto-based law firm Greenspan Humphrey Weinstein said in a statement. “He will be pleading not guilty and will vigorously defend the case.

“None of the evidence has been presented, let alone tested in court. We ask that the public respect Mr McLeod’s privacy, and his family’s privacy.”

The Devils, who last week said McLeod had requested and been granted an indefinite leave of absence from the NHL team, did not immediately respond to Reuters when asked in an email to comment on the charges.

The Flames, who said on Sunday that Dube was taking an indefinite leave of absence to address his mental health, also did not immediately respond when asked to comment on the charges against the 25-year-old forward.

The charges against Dube were announced shortly after the McLeod news surfaced.

“The London Police Service have charged Mr. Dube with sexual assault,” Dube’s lawyers, Louis Strezos and Kaleigh Davidson, said in a statement. “He will plead not guilty and maintains his innocence. He will defend the allegations in court.”

The London Police Service have called a news conference for Monday when they are expected to release more details.

McLeod was selected by the Devils with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. The 25-year-old forward has 10 goals and nine assists in 45 games this season.

Dube, who Calgary selected 56th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, has three goals and four assists in 43 games this season.

Hockey Canada, the sport’s national governing body, came under fire when news broke in May 2022 of the alleged assault and subsequent out-of-court settlement that was paid for from player registration fees.

The scandal prompted the Canadian federal government to freeze Hockey Canada’s funding for 10 months while a number of major companies either paused or cancelled their sponsorships with the national governing body.

Amid the scandal, Hockey Canada said it would no longer use the fund financed by player registration fees to settle sexual assault claims while the organisation’s CEO and board of directors stepped down.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)

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