Hearing set for June 11 to determine trial date for charged Canada 2018 world junior players


The start date for the criminal trial involving five members of Team Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team charged with sexual assault will be set on June 11.

Meanwhile, the five accused players could make their first in-person appearances inside a London, Ontario, courtroom in September.

Those were the key takeaways from Tuesday’s 13-minute trial scheduling hearing, in which defense lawyers for the charged appeared by teleconference.

There was a belief the trial dates could have been scheduled at Tuesday’s trial scheduling conference. Justice Alissa Mitchell told representatives “it was anticipated we would be setting trial dates” during her opening remarks. However, after learning there is now another judicial pre-trial hearing scheduled for June 7, Mitchell asked representatives to return to the courtroom on June 11 to firm up the dates for the jury trial, which could last eight weeks.

In January, Alex Formenton, Carter Hart, Dillon Dubé, Michael McLeod and Cal Foote were charged by the London Police Service 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 had been celebrated for its gold medal win at the 2018 world junior hockey championship.

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On Tuesday, 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.

Lawyer David Humphrey, who is representing McLeod in this case, told Mitchell on Tuesday it was his understanding those September court appearances would be in person — rather than virtual or teleconference hearings.

“It’s envisioned those are in-person appearances,” Humphrey said. “We’re still working out with the Crown whether the accused will be attending in person or otherwise.”

There have been multiple judicial pre-trial meetings between the Crown and defense lawyers in recent weeks, with one taking place Monday. Those sessions are closed to the public and media and are often conducted to handle procedural matters.

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.

At the end of February, lawyers for the five players confirmed their clients had 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.

In February, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters at All-Star Weekend in Toronto that 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 by Andy Devlin /  Getty Images)



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