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NHL player Michael McLeod charged with sexual assault in Canadian world juniors investigation, lawyer says

New Jersey Devils player Michael McLeod watches during a break in an NHL hockey game in Philadelphia in this Nov. 30 file photo. On Tuesday, his lawyers said McLeod has been charged in the investigation into an alleged sexual assault by members of the 2018 World Junior hockey team in London, Ont. (Matt Slocum/The Associated Press - image credit)
New Jersey Devils player Michael McLeod watches during a break in an NHL hockey game in Philadelphia in this Nov. 30 file photo. On Tuesday, his lawyers said McLeod has been charged in the investigation into an alleged sexual assault by members of the 2018 World Junior hockey team in London, Ont. (Matt Slocum/The Associated Press - image credit)

WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it.

Michael McLeod of the NHL's New Jersey Devils has been charged with sexual assault related to an alleged group incident in 2018 in London, Ont., when he was a member of Canada's World Junior hockey team.

The 25-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native's lawyers confirmed the charges Tuesday in a statement to CBC News.

"Mr. McLeod denies any criminal wrongdoing," said David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein.

"He will be pleading not guilty and will vigorously defend the case," the statement says. "None of the evidence has been presented, let alone tested in court. We ask that the public respect Mr. McLeod's privacy and his family's privacy. Because the matter is now before the court, we will not comment further at this time."

News of the charge comes two days after Alex Formenton, also a member of the 2018 junior team, showed up at London Police Service (LPS) headquarters, where he was charged with sexual assault.

Players given leaves from teams before charges laid

A handful of other players from the 2018 team requested and were granted absence leaves this week from their NHL and European teams. London police have not named any of the accused or provided any specifics about charges.

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The LPS has called a news conference for Monday, when it's expected more details will be released.

It's alleged the incident occurred following a Hockey Canada gala in the southwestern Ontario city in June 2018, when the players were honoured for their victory at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.

Canadian professional ice hockey player Alex Formenton, centre, walks into police headquarters in London, Ont., on Sunday.
Canadian professional ice hockey player Alex Formenton, centre, walks into police headquarters in London, Ont., on Sunday.

Canadian professional ice hockey player Alex Formenton, centre, walks into police headquarters in London on Sunday, after turning himself in in the 2018 junior hockey scandal. (CBC)

Court documents from 2022 revealed London police believed they had reasonable grounds to accuse five players of sexually assaulting a young woman in a hotel room.

The police service closed the case in 2018, then reopened it in 2022 in response to public outrage following a lawsuit.

The alleged victim, known only as E.M. in court documents, sued eight unnamed players, Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League for more than $3.5 million. Hockey Canada settled that lawsuit.

For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, there is support available through crisis lines and local support services via this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.