The University of Ottawa’s men’s hockey team will not take the ice in 2014-15, the result of an ongoing sexual assault investigation surrounding an incident that allegedly took place in Thunder Bay last February.
University of Ottawa president Allan Rock, the country’s former justice minister, made the announcement on Wednesday, after the school conducted an internal investigation.
The decision also cost hockey coach Real Paiement his job. Paiement had been suspended with pay following the allegations against an undetermined number of Ottawa players, subject of an investigation by Thunder Bay police.
“For the coming season, there will be no men’s hockey,” Rock told reporters at an on-campus news conference in Ottawa.
“Next season will not happen.”
Rock refused to name players or publicly state how many players were involved.
“The university is not in a position to name names,” Rock said. “That would be unfair.”
At the time of the incident a third-party came forward with a complaint, which police in Thunder Bay took seriously.
“It’s an allegation of a sexual assault, which occurred sometime on the weekend of Feb. 1. This weekend coincides with the weekend the Ottawa hockey team, from the University of Ottawa was in town playing (the Lakehead Thunderwolves),” police spokesman Chris Adams said at the time.
Adams said Wednesday the local police investigation has concluded, is being reviewed and “we anticipate issuing a media release regarding the outcome within the next few weeks.”
Rock said even though criminal charges haven’t been laid, he felt it was in the best interest of the school and the program to act swiftly and decisively.
“The police will deal with their responsibilities as they see fit. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the police inquiry,” Rock stated, saying it’s not up to the university to determine guilt or innocence.
Less clear is the future of the players.
Rock said the school has to make changes in the program, and while they could put them in place by September, he’d rather wait until 2015-16 at the earliest to make a clean break.
As of Wednesday the team’s roster included 25 players eligible to return in the fall, all of whom will likely be free to seek other places to play.
Asked about their futures, Rock had little to say.
“That’s up to every player to decide, he said. “They can do as they like.”
The Ottawa Citizen reports several Gee-Gees players and their parents are considering a lawsuit for defaming, punishing and even ending the careers of several players.
The Gee-Gees and Lakehead Thunderwolves are not scheduled to play in 2014-15.
The OUA has released a men’s hockey schedule for next season that includes Ottawa’s participation, but notes that the team was under an internal suspension and their status for the upcoming season had not yet been confirmed.
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