Tiger Williams charged with sexual assault during military flight

Former NHL star Dave (Tiger) Williams is facing a sexual assault charge following a military police investigation. The incident allegedly took place aboard a military flight to Latvia in December.

Former hockey great has been a regular player in celebrity ball hockey games with troops overseas

Retired Toronto Maple Leafs player Dave 'Tiger' Williams salutes the crowd on military honour night prior to a game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 16, 2013, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Former NHL star Dave (Tiger) Williams has been charged by military police with sexual assault in connection with an incident that took place aboard an air force flight.

National Defence released a brief statement Friday, saying Williams was taking part in a morale visit to the Canadian contingent in Latvia just before Christmas.

An incident took place on a CC-150 passenger jet overnight flight to Riga between Dec. 2 and 3. The alleged victim was another passenger, who reported the incident while they were en route.

Williams is facing one count of sexual assault under the Criminal Code and one count of common assault. Officials at the Department of National Defence say the case will be handed over to a civilian Crown prosecutor in Ottawa for consideration.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service would not release any information about the alleged victim.

The charges against Williams come at a time when the military has been cracking down on sexual assault and misconduct among its own members.

"Every allegation of sexual assault is taken seriously by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service," said Lt.-Col. Kevin Cadman, the commanding officer of the investigation service, in a statement. 

"In all cases, no matter who the accused is, we strive to restore the dignity of victims by fully investigating their complaints, gathering evidence, reconstructing events, and if warranted, laying appropriate charges."

National Defence would not comment on whether Williams was allowed to continue with the show tour after the allegations were made.

"The matter is about to go before the courts and, as such, I can't provide any additional information beyond what was communicated by CFNIS," spokesman Dan Lebouthillier.

However, a defence source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the former hockey enforcer was not removed from the schedule and returned with the troupe in mid-December.

Williams, 64, played in the NHL from 1974 to 1988 for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Hartford Whalers.

Military police were the lead in this instance because they have jurisdiction over all defence establishments, including aircraft.

Williams has been a regular on military morale tours, travelling to Afghanistan to play celebrity ball hockey games against troops when they were deployed.

He took part in 14 such overseas excursions.

These kinds of celebrity morale-building trips are a feature of overseas deployments in many Western militaries.

Williams was scheduled to play in an All-Star Celebrity Classic in Regina on Feb. 17 as part of a contingent of 41 former NHL players.

"He actually pulled out of the game two and a half weeks ago," said Phil Andrews, director of communications for the Regina Pats. He didn't say why.

Andrews said the company that had booked Williams' appearance just gave word to the Pats that he would no longer be in attendance.


Murray Brewster

Defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.