University of Ottawa Hockey Team Suspended After Sexual Assault Allegations

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2014

Feb 20, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; A shot from USA towards an empty Canada net hits the post in the third period in the women's ice hockey gold medal game during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Bolshoy Ice Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

University of Ottawa announced the suspension of its entire men's hockey team Monday, amid allegations that multiple members of the team engaged in a gang sexual assault of an unknown woman.

The university has thus far refused to acknowledge the exact details of the case because of identity laws surrounding not only the victim but also the student-athletes. Sources close to the situation told Doug Hempstead of the Ottawa Sun that police are currently investigating an alleged sexual assault that took place when the team was in Thunder Bay to play Lakehead University.

It's unclear exactly when the assault would have taken place. Hempstead notes Ottawa was in Thunder Bay for games on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, but the dates remain unconfirmed. In a statement released to the press, University of Ottawa says the alleged events took place "several weeks ago."

“The incident occurred several weeks ago,” the release states. “The University is deeply concerned that senior management was only informed about these allegations on February 24, and then by a third party. This will be among the matters examined in the review.”

According to Hempstead, the victim was an acquaintance of one Ottawa player. Details are still emerging from the case, but that player and several others allegedly sexually assaulted the woman, who has not yet spoken to police about the incident. As the university's release notes, it was only notified of the players' actions on Feb. 24—and not by the victim. The school told police about the alleged incident a day after they were told. 

At this time, the victim is refusing to consent with police and no charges have been filed. The identity of the players involved with the sexual assault are still unknown and would not be made public unless formal charges are filed.

Without verification from the woman, it will be difficult for police to follow through on charging any of the players. Hempstead's report did not note what (if any) physical evidence police had tying the players to the case.

The decision to suspend the entire hockey team is a nearly unprecedented move that sends a message, saying this type of misconduct (whether true or not) will not be tolerated. University of Ottawa has scrubbed the team's schedule from its official website. All results have also been redirected to the official statement, announcing the suspension of the team.

The Gee-Gees went 17-9-1 this season. Their most recent game came in the OUA playoffs, where they lost two games to Queen's Gaels. 

As noted by Blair Crawford and Shaamini Yogaretnam of the Ottawa Citizen, these allegations are just the latest in a series of ugly black marks for the university. Recently, four students stepped down from the Student Federation on campus due to an ugly Facebook conversation, which the university president said was indicative of a "rape culture" pervading through the student body.

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