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VPD Charges ex-Canucks Forward Virtanen with Sexual Assault

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Vancouver Canucks, Jake Virtanen
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen during the 2020-'21 season.

He wasn’t here. Jake Virtanen, the former Vancouver Canucks forward was skating for Spartak Moscow in the Russian KHL and had 16 points in 36 games played this season when he first learned the latest news. He’s under contract through the end of April. Even though European leagues typically end their regular seasons in March and finish playoff efforts in April, it appears Virtanen’s tenure will be cut short.

Virtanen has or will return to Vancouver as soon as possible to face the serious music as the Vancouver Police Department has charged him with one count of sexual assault for an incident in September of 2017 involving a 23-year-old female complainant. VPD made the announcement today (Thursday).

The Vancouver Canucks organization is apparently handling an investigation of its own on the matter, but over recent months has consistently said the team couldn’t comment on its own efforts “during an ongoing/active police investigation”.

That investigation has resulted in a charge, and one might conclude there is no secondary independent investigation.

The club did issue this statement Thursday afternoon:

Vancouver, B.C. – The Vancouver Canucks released a statement today in response to former player Jake Virtanen being charged with sexual assault following a Vancouver Police investigation:

“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. 

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.”

In August Virtanen, via his agent Kevin Epp, issued a statement explaining his innocence and complaining of leaks on the investigation to local media. From Vancouver Hockey Now’s (VHN) linked story that contains the statement in its entirety:

“I would like to speak out on behalf of my client, Jake Virtanen, regarding the extremely difficult situation he has been dealing with. Four years ago, Jake had consensual physical relations with a woman. There were no drugs or alcohol involved. He is adamant that absolutely nothing improper occurred and denies in the strongest possible terms any suggestion that this was non-consensual.

Sexual assault is a very serious and harmful problem, and being accused of this, even without any criminal charges being laid has devastating consequences. What is unusual and troubling about this situation is how these events have been unfolding …”

Virtanen, a native of New Westminster, was the Vancouver Canucks 6th-overall pick in the 1st-round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He tallied 100 points over 317 games during six seasons. The team suspended him last spring upon hearing of the investigation prior to his contract expiring.

His accuser filed a lawsuit in Kelowna in May related to the incident that apparently occurred in West Vancouver.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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