Two players on University of Ottawa's suspended men's hockey team are facing charges of sexual assault in connection with an incident at a hotel in Thunder Bay in February.
The alleged sexual assault, involving a 21-year-old woman, occurred at a West Arthur Street hotel in the early-morning hours of Feb. 2, Thunder Bay police said in a media release issued Friday.
At the time, the University of Ottawa men's hockey team, the Gee-Gees, was in Thunder Bay to play a game against the Lakehead University Thunderwolves.
The men charged have been identified as Gatineau, Que., residents Guillaume Donovan, 24, and David Foucher, 25. The men, who have both been released from custody, each face a charge of sexual assault.
On the Gee-Gees's men's hockey roster, Donovan is listed as a forward studying geography. Foucher is listed as a defenceman studying human kinetics.
Their next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 30 in Thunder Bay.
Police in Thunder Bay were notified about the incident on Feb. 25 by a third party. In March, investigators were sent to Ottawa to conduct interviews with players. RCMP and Ottawa police assisted with the investigation.
The two men were charged this week in Ottawa with the help of Ottawa police.
"Any sexual assault investigation can be challenging," Thunder Bay police spokesperson Chris Adams said Friday. "This one became even more challenging because of the distance involved and the time frame."
Adams said they spoke with as many players as possible, but some chose to not meet with police. He would not say whether the two accused co-operated with police.
Hockey program remains suspended
While the police investigation was underway, the University of Ottawa suspended its men's hockey program for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
Gee-Gee's head coach Réal Paiement, who was with the team during the road trip, was initially suspended with pay but was later relieved of his duties.
Paiement learned of the allegations "hours" after they occurred, and "devised and imposed measures by himself with respect to the team" — but did not inform the university, university president Allan Rock at the time.
In a statement released Friday, the university said the charges do not affect the suspension, which remains in effect.
"The university suspended the program, not individual players, as this is standard practice with university and college sports teams in these kinds of circumstances," the statement reads.
"The university is rebuilding the men’s varsity hockey program. We are hiring a new coach and putting in place improved policies, including new behaviour guidelines for student-athletes."
The school's student federation said it supports the continuation of the suspension as it works to address the overall issue of rape culture on campus.
Lawrence Greenspon, an Ottawa lawyer representing 12 other Gee-Gees men's hockey players considering a defamation lawsuit over the program's suspension, said it's unfortunate the entire program continues to be suspended.
"Clearly they've narrowed their allegations to only two people," he said. "Why not clear the names of all of the other players on the team?"
Canadian Interuniversity Sports waived its transfer rules for Gee-Gees men's hockey players in July, allowing them to play for another school this season if they can find a spot.