Former Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen has been charged with sexual assault, Vancouver police confirmed Thursday.
The BC Prosecution Service approved one count of sexual assault against Virtanen in relation to an incident that occurred in Vancouver on Sept. 26, 2017, when Virtanen was playing in the NHL, police said.
An investigation was launched last May, after the now-23-year-old alleged victim came forward.
In July, the Canucks said Virtanen had been placed on unconditional waivers for the purposes of a contract buyout.
In a statement to Global News, Virtanen’s agent Kevin Epp said his client maintains his innocence.
“Mr. Virtanen denies the allegations of non-consensual sexual contact with the complainant. 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,” the statement reads.
Mr. Virtanen continues to maintain his innocence and looks forward to defending himself at trial. Until such time, we do not intend to make any further public statements.”
A civil lawsuit filed in Kelowna, B.C., the previous month alleged Virtanen took the woman to a hotel in West Vancouver in September 2017 and assaulted her as she repeatedly said no and pleaded with him to stop.
Virtanen denied the allegation in a response filed June 1, 2021, saying the pair had consensual sex, and denied that the woman “expressed any indication, verbal or physical, that she did not want to engage in physical activity.”
The allegations have not been tested in court.
The Vancouver Canucks issued a statement Thursday acknowledging the charges.
“When the allegations first came to our attention, we immediately placed Jake Virtanen on leave. He is no longer a member of the organization,” the club said.
“We have been in contact with the Vancouver Police Department throughout their 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. We will not be commenting further on this matter.”
Vancouver police said the 25-year-old is not in custody.
-With files from the Canadian Press