British Columbia

Former Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen charged with sexual assault

Jake Virtanen, a former Vancouver Canucks forward, has been charged with one count of sexual assault following an investigation, according to the Vancouver Police Department.

Charge related to 2017 incident while Virtanen was playing in the NHL, police say

Jake Virtanen, seen playing for the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 18, 2020, has been charged with one count of sexual assault. (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

The Vancouver Police Department says Jake Virtanen, a former Vancouver Canucks forward, has been charged with one count of sexual assault following an investigation.

The department says the B.C. Prosecution Service approved the charge following an investigation into an incident that occurred in Vancouver on Sept. 26, 2017.

Virtanen, 25, was playing for the Vancouver Canucks at the time. 

On May 1, 2021, the team placed Virtanen on leave following allegations of sexual misconduct. In July, it bought him out of his contract.

Const. Tania Visintin says the investigation was launched that same month after the complainant, who is now 23, came forward to the police.

"This is obviously a very sensitive case," she said, adding she won't able to release details related to the investigation.

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The Canucks say they have been in contact with the police throughout their investigation and will continue to provide support.

"Our organization is committed to fostering a safe and welcoming environment and will not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind," the team said in a statement.

Virtanen grew up in B.C.'s Fraser Valley and was drafted by the Canucks in 2014. In October 2020, the team signed him to a two-year extension worth $5.1 million US.

Virtanen is currently playing in Russia for Spartak Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League. 

Visintin says Virtanen is not in custody and the Crown counsel is in contact with Virtanen's lawyer to discuss how Virtanen will be brought to court in B.C.

Virtanen's agent says he denies the allegation.

"Mr. Virtanen continues to maintain his innocence and looks forward to defending himself at trial," Kevin Epp said in a statement.

"Until such time, we do not intend to make any further public statements."