NHL defenseman Victor Mete says he was not involved in an alleged sexual assault involving members of the 2018 Canadian junior hockey team.
Mete was a member of Team Canada that won gold at the World Junior Men’s Hockey Championship in January 2018 in Buffalo, NY. He had been loaned by the Montreal Canadiens to the national team for the tournament in December 2017.
Hockey Canada quietly settled a lawsuit last month after a woman, now 24, claimed she was assaulted by eight hockey players, including members of the national junior team, at a gala and an evening of golf in London, Ontario in June 2018.
“I feel it is important for me to state that I was not present at the gala event celebration when this appalling event occurred,” Mete said in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday. “At the time, I was vacationing with my family and friends in Jamaica and only recently learned of the situation through the media.
“I am deeply troubled by reports of this incident and if my assistance is requested by those investigating this matter, I will cooperate fully in any way possible.”
Here is my statement regarding Hockey Canada’s ongoing investigation: pic.twitter.com/bE3WnuxyLU
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Mete played the past two seasons with the Ottawa Senators, who claimed him off waivers for the Canadiens in the 2020-21 campaign.
Hockey Canada executives were challenged by lawmakers on Parliament Hill last week during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on the issue.
Other sponsors withdraw
The national sports organization lost government funding and several major sponsors due to its handling of the case.
Recipe Unlimited, the parent company of Swiss Chalet and The Keg, announced Thursday that it has suspended its partnership with Hockey Canada.
“Our company is focused on creating inclusive and safe spaces for our teammates and guests, and we expect the same from our partners,” reads its statement. “We will continue to be in contact with Hockey Canada to outline our expectations for change and to ensure that the right steps are taken to prepare for a safer and more inclusive future for hockey in Canada.”
Tim Hortons said it was “pausing its support” on Wednesday for the next World Junior Hockey Championship this summer as the restaurant chain awaits details on how Hockey Canada intends to take “firm and definitive action.” following the “deeply concerning allegations”.
Scotiabank, Canadian Tire and Telus all suspended Hockey Canada sponsorships on Tuesday until the companies are satisfied the right steps are being taken to improve the culture of the sport.
Bauer, a hockey equipment manufacturer who is a major partner of Hockey Canada, issued a statement Thursday saying the allegations are “extremely disturbing” and that the company is closely monitoring the facts of the situation to determine the next steps in its partnership with the national sports organization.
“We have observed troubling situations, particularly for girls, in a number of communities across Canada recently,” said Mary-Kay Messier, vice president of global marketing for Bauer Hockey in a statement. “Current systems and policies are failing underrepresented families.”