VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver Canucks’ general manager says the team is taking sexual assault allegations against forward Jake Virtanen seriously, but isn’t offering any new details on the investigation.
The focus of the Canucks’ year-end chat with reporters shifted focus slightly Friday when Jim Benning was asked about the allegations levelled against Virtanen earlier this month.
“The girl put her blog out there. A reporter was going to write a story. They communicated that to us,” Benning said, adding the team’s legal counsel then became involved.
“We took the allegations seriously,” he said. “The first step in the process is we put out a statement. I talked to Jake and told him that he’s going to have to take a leave from the team. And then over the course of the next couple days, the girl filed a police report. So then, it became police business.”
Benning wouldn’t comment further on the situation, adding he doesn’t know when he will be able to say more.
#Canucks GM Jim Benning says when they learned about the sexual assault allegations against Jake Virtanen, he told the forward to take a leave from the team. Their legal counsel is involved. #VPD has no comment right now, citing "the integrity of the investigative process."
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) May 21, 2021
Virtanen is also the subject of a civil lawsuit that was filed last week. The notice filed Wednesday at B.C. Supreme Court in Kelowna says the woman and Virtanen met at a music festival at the Calgary Stampede in 2017, alleging she was sexually assaulted about two months later at a West Vancouver hotel.
The detailed account claims “Virtanen, by his unlawful actions, violated the sexual integrity of the Plaintiff,” who has not been named and who was a minor at the time of the alleged assault.
“Virtanen’s actions were deliberate, flagrant, and outrageous,” the notice reads, claiming his “actions were premeditated and intentional.”
The notice is seeking punitive and exemplary damages against the 24-year-old hockey player.
Virtanen was benched by the team after the assault claims surfaced. At the time, on May 1, the Canucks said he would remain on leave as an independent investigation was being launched.
“Our organization does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously by us,” a statement from the Canucks said.
Vancouver police confirmed days later that they were now looking into the allegations against Virtanen.
On Friday, police said they don’t have more details of the investigation to share at this time.
“Our detectives made contact with the complainant after learning of allegations in media coverage. In the interest of privacy and to protect the integrity of the investigative process, we are unable to provide further information at this time,” said VPD Const. Tania Visintin.
With files from Marcus Fitzgerald, Hana Mae Nassar, and Martin MacMahon