Since 2022, the National Hockey League (NHL) has been entrenched in a sexual assault scandal involving five Canadian hockey players: Dillon Dube, Carter Hart, Cal Foote, Alex Formenton, and Michael McCleod. The scandal stems from a June 2018 incident involving the five Canadian World Junior Team teammates in London, Ontario. The incident was investigated but concluded without charges before the case was re-opened in 2022. Each player has formally been charged, leaving their teams in limbo as they await further legal action. Let’s look at how the case impacts Dube and the Calgary Flames, as well as what fans can expect moving forward.
Reviewing the 2018 Incident
While charges weren’t filed until recently, this originally stems from an incident in 2018. Dube and his four Canadian World Junior Team teammates celebrated their win after a gold-medal performance. The 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships took place between December 26, 2017 and January 5, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. Canada easily won their group, winning three of their four games, with their only loss coming in overtime. They logged 10 total points and a +15 goal differential, winning the group over the United States (despite losing to the USA due to their loss to Slovakia).
In the playoff rounds, Canada dominated, defeating Switzerland 8–2 in the quarterfinals and beating the Czech Republic 7–2 in the semifinals. They caught a break when Sweden defeated the Americans in the semifinals. Considering Canada had lost to the United States previously, hockey betting would have likely favored the USA. Ultimately, Canada beat Sweden 3–1 in the gold medal game, while the United States had to settle for Bronze, throttling the Czech Republic 9–3. The win gave Canada their 17th gold medal, the most in history, with that count now sitting at 20.
The team celebrated the win without issue. However, the team would be together again in June when the incident occurred. After attending the Hockey Canada Foundation Gala & Golf event on June 18, 2018, an unnamed woman alleged that Dube, Hart, Foote, Formenton, and McLeod sexually assaulted her in a hotel room. Up to eight people were believed to be involved, but the police only had reasonable grounds against those five.
Police Dismiss The Investigation
Following the incident, an investigation was quickly conducted. Each player denied any involvement. Hockey Canada stated that the organization cooperated fully with the police at the time, and investigators said in a 94-page document released in December of 2022 that they had reasonable grounds to believe the five teammates committed the assault. However, at the time of the investigation, no charges were filed, and the case was officially closed in 2019.
2022: The Case Is Reopened
The case was reopened in 2022 after his investigators discovered new evidence. Chief Thai Truong said his team had “insufficient grounds” to bring charges in 2019, but recent evidence helped them file charges. London Police charged each player with one count of sexual assault, as well as charging McLeod with one charge as a party to the offense. He did not expand on what kind of new evidence they had. Former Senators forward Formenton is the only player that has reported to London Police thus far, but other players have taken action.
Each player, including Dube, has been granted an indefinite leave of absence while denying all wrongdoing. Dube specifically took a leave of absence for “mental health” reasons. A former second-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft, Dube is in his sixth season with the Calgary Flames and had played in 43 of the team’s 46 games before his announcement.
What the Leave of Absence Means for Dube and the Flames
Unfortunately for the Flames, the scandal has distracted the team. Ultimately, serious allegations like those Dube is facing are more important than any action on the ice. With that knowledge, Calgary has done its best to give Dube the presumption of innocence that comes with an investigation of this nature while continuing to compete.
Calgary is still very much in the playoff hunt. Despite the distractions, they trail Edmonton by six points and are currently on a three-game winning streak. They have +310 odds of making the playoffs, which is surprisingly positive considering what they have gone through. Losing Dube hurts their rotational depth, but he hasn’t played particularly well this season. He had just seven points in 43 games, a 13-point pace across 82 games. In 82 games last season, Dube scored 45 points. Before his absence, Dube had logged a -13 +/-, more than doubling the worst mark of his career set last season. He averaged just 11:09 minutes on the ice per game, the lowest mark of his career since his rookie season.
How Does Calgary Move Forward?
With the season just over halfway done, the Flames have plenty of games to sneak into the playoffs. However, no team has been as streaky as Calgary. In fact, across their last 25 games, they haven’t had a single W-L-W or L-W-L stretch. During that time, they have four winning streaks of at least three games and two losing streaks of at least four games. To make the postseason, the squad has to find a way to put the Dube distraction aside and move forward.