Abbotsford's Jake Virtanen has been charged with sexual assault. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen charged with sexual assault

Ex-Vancouver Canucks player charged in relation to incident on Sept. 26, 2017

Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen has been charged with sexual assault following a Vancouver Police Department investigation.

The charges were announced in a press release posted on Thursday (Jan. 27).

BC Prosecution Service approved one count of sexual assault against Virtanen, 25, in relation to an incident that occurred in Vancouver on Sept. 26, 2017, when Virtanen was playing in the National Hockey League.

VPD launched an investigation in May 2021, after the now-23-year-old victim came forward to police.

Virtanen is not currently in custody, as he has been playing for HC Spartak Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. The KHL does not have any games scheduled for much of February due to the Olympics.

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He signed with the KHL club in September after he cleared waivers and was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks on July 25.

Virtanen was put on leave on May 1 by the Canucks following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Later that month, a civil lawsuit was filed in Kelowna that alleged Virtanen took a woman to a hotel in West Vancouver in September 2017 and assaulted her as the woman repeatedly said no and pleaded with him to stop.

The statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and repeated and ongoing nightmares.

Virtanen responded to the lawsuit the following month, saying he did have sex with the woman, but that it was consensual. He claimed that the woman consented to the act through her words and conduct.

Virtanen added that he did not “physically force the plaintiff to have intercourse” and denies that the woman expressed “any indication, verbal or physical, that she did not want to engage in sexual activity.”

The former Abbotsford Minor Hockey Association and Yale Hockey Academy product was chosen by the Canucks in round one, sixth overall of the 2014 NHL draft.

Following the announcement of the charges, the Vancouver Canucks released a statement.

“We have been made aware of the charges laid by the Crown against Jake Virtanen. 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 release states. “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.”

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