The Tampa Bay Lightning announced Sunday that they have suspended defenseman Ian Cole, pending the results of an investigation into grooming and sexual assault allegations against him, per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.
The Lightning said in a statement:
"The Tampa Bay Lightning is aware of the allegations against player Ian Cole and are cooperating fully with the NHL on an investigation. Our organization takes these allegations very seriously. While we continue to gather more details, we have decided to suspend Ian Cole pending the results of an investigation. No members of the organization, including players, will comment further at this time."
Cole also released a statement on Sunday night, per Friedman:
"I take the allegations made against me today in an anonymous tweet very seriously. I completely deny these allegations and will fully cooperate with the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning, their officials and legal departments in the forthcoming investigation. I look forward to clearing my name and demonstrating to the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning that these allegations are unfounded. I will have no further comment until the NHL's investigation concludes."
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly also said Sunday that the league is aware of the allegations and is looking into it, per The Athletic's Katie Strang.
On Friday afternoon, a woman made a statement on Twitter accusing Cole of sexually assaulting and grooming her over a four-year stretch that began while she was a minor.
The woman said she met Cole while still in high school and that he pressured her into having sex with him. She alleges Cole knew she was a minor at the time and also claims she knew he was having sex with other high school-aged girls in their teens.
In addition, the woman said Cole would "frequently pressure me to do things without consent." She added that he manipulated and humiliated her, bragged about having sex with other women and "would make derogatory misogynistic comments."
"Anyone who truly knows Ian and the way he talks about women will not be surprised by any of this," the woman said in her statement.
One of Cole's former NHL teammates also allegedly told the woman that Cole bragged about having sex with her, sharing details that only the veteran defenseman would have known, she said in her statement.
"Ian felt emboldened to emotionally and sexually abuse me and other women because the NHL fosters a culture of misogyny," the woman said in her statement. "The NHL needs to hold themselves and their players accountable for creating an enabling environment of misogynistic and predatory behavior."
Cole signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Lightning in July after spending the 2021-22 season with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The 33-year-old was selected in the first round of the 2007 NHL draft by the St. Louis Blues. He made his NHL debut with the Blues in 2010 and has also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild.