Ex-Canuck Jake Virtanen charged with sexual assault in Vancouver case
Warning: This story contains a graphic description of an alleged sexual assault that readers may find upsetting.
A former Vancouver Canucks player has been charged with sexual assault in connection with an investigation in Vancouver, police say.
The charge against Jacob Reid Virtanen, better known to hockey fans as Jake Virtanen, is tied to an allegation from Sept. 26, 2017. It was approved by the B.C. Prosecution Service Thursday, according to the Vancouver Police Department.
He has denied the allegation, which has not been tested in court.
Virtanen, now 25, was playing in the National Hockey League at the time. The investigation began back in May when a young woman filed a police report.
Virtanen is not in custody, police said. No further details were provided by the department.
He was placed on leave by the Canucks in May and on waivers in July, after the allegation surfaced.
The team hoped for a buyout of the final year of his contract – at the time, the Canucks were on the hook for about one-third of his remaining $3 million salary.
In September it was announced that Virtanen was headed to Russia to play with Spartak Moscow in the KHL.
The right winger from B.C.'s Lower Mainland is also the subject of a lawsuit related to an assault allegation from Sept. 26, 2017.
CTV News reached out to police to confirm the incidents are the same, but was told that no further information could be provided due to a publication ban.
The B.C. Prosecution Service too said no further comment would be made as the case is before the courts.
In court documents, his accuser alleged the assault happened at a hotel. Virtanen responded to the suit and acknowledged having sex with the accuser, but said she consented "through her words and conduct."
A lawyer for Virtanen denied allegations that the professional athlete "used his body weight and superior strength" to render the accuser unconscious.
Both said they'd first met at the Calgary Stampede, and exchanged text messages for a couple of months before meeting up in Vancouver.
His accuser's statement of claim indicates that she was "a youth" at the time of the incident, and Virtanen was 20. In his response, Virtanen said he understood her to be 18 when they met.
The allegations in the lawsuit have also not been proven in court.
A statement from Virtanen's agent obtained by The Canadian Press said the former Canuck continues to deny the allegations.
"He has filed a response to the complainant's civil lawsuit. He has sent police a statement, denying the allegations. He took a polygraph examination and provided that report to the police," Kevin Epps wrote. "Mr. Virtanen continues to maintain his innocence and looks forward to defending himself at trial."
Virtanen was due in court Thursday for his first appearance, but that has been adjourned to Feb. 10, the BCPS said.
In a statement issued after the charge was made public, the Vancouver Canucks said the team has been in contact with police throughout the investigation, and will continue to provide support as needed.
"Our organization is committed to fostering a safe and welcoming environment and will not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind," the team said.
With files from The Canadian Press
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