Bettman: NHL probe into junior hockey allegations nears end

Sports

MONTREAL (AP) — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday the league’s investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of Canada’s 2018 world junior team is getting “really close to the end.”

In a media availability at the Bell Centre before the Montreal Canadiens’ game against the Boston Bruins, Bettman said the investigation was “not a race” and that the goal was to “get it right.”

“Doing an investigation of this nature, getting access to information and people, isn’t something that you can just snap your fingers and make happen,” Bettman said. “Obviously, we’re not the only ones conducting an investigation and apparently nobody’s done yet and so we want to bring it to its conclusion, but we’re just not there yet.”

Bettman had said on Dec. 13 that the NHL was in the “home stretch” of its investigation but that there was still work to be done. Bettman attributed the delay to “dealing with the realities” of everyone involved, not resistance from witnesses.

“Getting access to people on a timely basis, we don’t technically have subpoena power, getting documentary evidence that may be filed in places that you have to get access to,” Bettman said. “It’s complicated. It’s not like simply saying we want it to happen. But we’re trying to work it through when we get to the end and we want to get it right.”

The NHL began its own review after Hockey Canada settled a lawsuit with a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by eight members of the country’s world junior team at a gala in 2018. Several players from that gold medal-winning team are currently in the NHL.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Bettman also said the process to sell the Ottawa Senators was “underway.” After the death of owner Eugene Melnyk, Senators Sports & Entertainment said in November that the club would be looking at potential buyers.

“I believe that the data room is open,” Bettman said. “And the people who will file applications to be qualified have begun to do their due diligence and so my understanding is the process is underway.”

One high-profile suitor, actor and entrepreneur Ryan Reynolds, has said he was interested in acquiring the team but needed “a partner with deep pockets.”

Bettman also touched on Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov’s decision to stay in the Flyers’ locker room as the team held LGBTQ pride night and donned Pride themed pregame jerseys set to be auctioned for charity.

After the game, Provorov, who is Russian Orthodox, cited his religious beliefs to explain his decision not to step onto the ice wearing the jersey during warmups.

“We as a league and our franchises try to represent the best values in their communities,” Bettman said. “We want to make sure that we can make a positive difference in people’s lives, whether it’s for mental health night or to make certain segments of our society who maybe historically haven’t been involved in hockey feel welcomed and included.

“But ultimately, players also have to be comfortable in terms of their own individual beliefs and it’s a balancing act.”

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