A former junior hockey coach who spent at least 15 years with teams in Saskatchewan in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s has been arrested in Alberta as part of an ongoing Regina police investigation.
Bernard Charles Lynch, 66, was the subject of a warrant on charges of sexual assault and assault, says the Regina Police Service (RPS), noting it understands Lynch turned himself in on Saturday in Devon, Alta., which is approximately 40 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.
RPS say Lynch, who remains in custody, will be transported back to Regina, but as of Tuesday, had not yet arrived.
Hockey Canada has confirmed in a statement that police are investigating allegations of historical criminal activity involving Lynch.
“The criminal investigation into the allegations of historical criminal activity involving Mr. Lynch is still ongoing and our organization continues to cooperate with police in both Edson, Alta., and Regina, Sask., in this case,” the organization wrote.
Hockey Regina confirmed to Global News that Lynch coached minor teams within the organization during the 1990s.
The CBC previously reported there were allegations about Lynch’s conduct during that time.
Hockey Regina says those allegations predate the organization’s current leadership and that it has not been contacted by RPS about them.
Lynch was hired by the Edson Aeros Junior A Hockey Club in 2018.
Edson is a town in Alberta about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton.
The Aeros, in a statement on their website dated Mar. 26, note “some troubling accusations raised with respect to Mr. Lynch’s professional behaviour when he was with the team.”
The statement says the issues were addressed “immediately and directly” by both the team and its league, the Western States Hockey League (WSHL).
“It is also important to realize that Mr. Lynch also acknowledged the need for improvement, verbally and in writing, and we made our expectations clear to Mr. Lynch that such occurrences wouldn’t happen again. At the time, improvement in Mr. Lynch’s conduct was noted, including by game officials,” the statement says.
“Regarding recent news about Mr. Lynch’s situation, I can only confirm that when Mr. Lynch’s term contract term ended with us, and because of the evolving situation with COVID-19, we decided not to pursue his contract. He was subsequently hired by the Fort Frances Lakers, and I can only assume that club undertook the same level of diligence in hiring him that we had originally done, and that they also found nothing in his professional background precluding him from a coaching position.”
The Fort Frances Lakers Hockey Association (FFLHA) hired Lynch in September 2020.
Fort Frances is a town in Ontario, located west of Lake Superior near the province’s border with Minnesota.
According to an undated statement about Lynch on the FFLHA website, on Jan. 1 the organization was “made aware of inappropriate communications from Mr. Lynch to a player.” The following day, Lynch was suspended without pay and ordered not to have contact with players or other members of the organization.
The FFLHA notes Hockey Canada assisted the association and league in a review and that “in light of the findings” Lynch was terminated.
“Mr. Lynch’s conduct demonstrated a clear breach of the applicable codes of conduct,” the FFLHA statement says.
Hockey Canada confirmed it launched an investigation recently that “included activities that allegedly occurred” in Fort Frances.
“Upon receiving the original emails sent by Mr. Lynch, we understood the severity of the situation and immediately determined this communication to be inappropriate. Hockey Canada took immediate steps to ensure the safety of the player in question and the balance of the players on the team,” Hockey Canada said in its email.
Hockey Canada noted that while Lynch has turned himself in, “this issue must go through due process.”
Prior to coaching with the Lakers and Aeros, Lynch coached the Smith Falls Settlers, of the Canadian Premier Jr. Hockey League (CPJHL), according to media notices on the Aeros’ and Settlers’ websites. They both note Lynch had experience with elite national camps in North America and Europe, where he also coached in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Norway and Sweden. His resume also includes a stint at a U.S. college.
In the late 1980s, Lynch coached for the Regina Pats, of the Western Hockey League, according to the international hockey database, eliteprospects.com.
Lynch was also the head coach of the Humboldt Broncos, of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, from 1984 until 1987, also according to eliteprospects.com.