Five NHL players on leave amid sexual assault inquiry

Five players from Canada's 2018 world junior team have taken a leave of absence from their current clubs in recent days amid a report that five members of that team have been asked to surrender to police to face sexual assault charges.

Michael McLeod and Cal Foote of the New Jersey Devils, Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers, Dillon Dube of the Calgary Flames and former NHL player Alex Formenton, who is now playing in Europe, all have been granted indefinite leave, with the absences announced in the past four days.

The Flyers and Swiss club HC Ambri-Piotta cited personal reasons for Hart's and Formenton's leaves; the Swiss club also said Formenton has been allowed to return to Canada. The Flames cited Dube's mental health, and the Devils did not give a reason Wednesday in announcing McLeod and Foote were on leave.

Messages left for the agents representing all five players and multiple messages sent to Hart's lawyer seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Police in London, Ontario, launched an investigation in 2022 after word emerged that Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit with a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by eight members of that team at a gala. The Globe & Mail reported Wednesday that five players from that team were asked to surrender to police, in the city halfway between Toronto and Detroit, to face charges of sexual assault.

A spokesperson for London Police would not confirm the report when contacted by The Associated Press. "When there is an update to provide, we will share with media outlets," Sgt. Sandasha Bough said Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Flyers general manager Daniel Briere opened his midseason state-of-the-organization news conference by saying: "We are aware of this morning's press reports on a very serious matter. We will respond appropriately when the outcomes of the investigations are made public.

"The NHL has been very clear that teams should refer all investigation-related questions to them. In the meantime, members of the organization, including Flyers players, will not be commenting any further."

The NHL opened its own investigation in 2022 and pledged to make those findings public.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press by email Wednesday the league would issue a statement when it is appropriate, adding there was nothing more he could currently say. At the Stanley Cup Final in June, Daly said an independent investigator had completed work and expected a report by midsummer that the league would then review.

"We have been in contact with the London police, continue to want to be in contact with them, make sure that there's visibility with respect to what our process is," Daly said June 3. "And to the extent we can understand what theirs is, that would be the goal. And then I can't prejudge what happens from there."