University of Ottawa hockey players say school has let them down

A University of Ottawa men's hockey player says he has been betrayed and his reputation "smeared" by the school after it suspended the entire team and blacklisted him from school functions following allegations related to a sexual assault investigation in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Hockey player complains he has been smeared by the university he dedicated himself to promote

Hockey players speak out over suspension

9 years ago
Duration 2:55
One hockey player wrote that he felt 'betrayed' while another spoke to CBC News about the frustration over how the university has handled a sexual assault investigation.

A University of Ottawa men's hockey player says he has been betrayed and his reputation "smeared" by the school after it suspended the entire team and blacklisted him from school functions following allegations related to a sexual assault investigation in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The school suspended the team at the end of February after it received a third-party complaint of a sexual assault alleged to have occurred on the weekend of Feb. 1, when the University of Ottawa hockey team was in Thunder Bay playing two games against the Lakehead University Thunderwolves.

The University of Ottawa men's varsity hockey program was suspended after allegations of 'serious misconduct' related to a sexual assault investigation came to light in February. (Richard A. Whittaker/University of Ottawa)
Thunder Bay police investigators came to Ottawa to interview team members, but have yet to lay charges. The university is also conducting its own internal review.

Pat Burns, a fifth-year student and suspended defenceman with the Gee-Gees hockey team, wrote in an open letter to university president Allan Rock that the school has treated the team's players poorly by suspending them before an investigation had begun.

Burns wrote that he has been fully co-operative with police during the investigation, "despite being assumed guilty by my fellow classmates and the general public as a result of the predetermined assumption of guilt bestowed upon all 26 members of the hockey team by the University."

Players barred from athletics banquets

Burns also claims he was "uninvited" to a reception with the sports services department on March 26 as well as an annual athletic banquet on April 4.

The school also customarily awards jerseys to graduating players at the sports services reception, but Burns said he was told by athletic director Luc Gelineau it would be mailed to him, "if and when deemed fit.”

He wrote that he tried to contact university officials, including Rock, to try to get reinstated to the reception, but did not get a response.

Harrison May says he understands the precautions the university is taking but hopes the school can make it up to the returning players and that there will be another season for the team next year. (CBC)
"Unfortunately, my years of dedication and my good name have been smeared by the very university I spent so much time working to promote," wrote Burns.

"As this semester ends, I leave the university not having been recognized for my accomplishments, but having had the door slammed behind me. And I am not the only one."

Burns would not agree to an interview, but sent the letter to CBC News in an email.

"There are many of us suffering and I hope my letter can be published," he wrote.

Goalie says process has been frustrating

Goalie Harrison May, a fourth-year player graduating this year, acknowledged that he too was barred from attending the events, even though he wasn't with the team when they went on the Thunder Bay road trip.

He said the experience has been frustrating and that the school has told the players little about what is happening.

"I understand the stance the university took and the precautions they have, but I hope that they can make it up to the players that are returning and I hope there is a season next year … for the first-years I hope it doesn't discourage them to keep going keep working their path," said May.

The university issued a statement Tuesday saying it appreciated the effect the suspension had on the players, but "we feel that it is in the best interests of all concerned to permit, at the very least, the completion of the university’s review before revisiting the decision."

The school acknowledged the students would not be permitted to participate in Gee-Gees activities, including athletic banquets, but said they would still be able to access university services, with the exception of those related to sports services.

"The suspension of the University of Ottawa men’s hockey program will remain in place until the completion of the internal review into allegations of misconduct involving some of the players on the team," said communications manager Caroline Milliard.