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league waives transfer penalties for players suspended pending criminal investigation

Photo by Marta Kierkus

Members of the University of Ottawa’s men’s hockey team will be allowed to play for another school while the Gee-Gees team is suspended, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) has ruled.

The decision, which comes after the U of O announced in June that it had suspended its team for the upcoming season, means players will not be subject to the usual one-year penalty for transferring to a different school.

The team was suspended due to the alleged sexual assault of a female university student by certain members of the team when they were in Thunder Bay in February for two games. Police have interviewed players but have yet to lay charges.

The CIS ruling applies to all players, including those who are subject to the criminal investigation in Thunder Bay, the CIS’ director of operations confirmed to the Fulcrum by email.

“They continue to retain the rights and privileges associated with being a university student, inclusive of participation in CIS competition, until such time they might be under direct suspension by an institution or the subject of a criminal conviction,” Tom Huisman said in an email.

Lawrence Greenspon, a lawyer representing about half the team, told the Ottawa Sun that he and his clients “appreciate the sentiment but don’t know how many players will benefit as a result of this ruling.”

Some of the players have already made arrangements to play for other teams, including a few who are playing in Australia.

“I think the CIS recognizes these innocent young men should not be suffering for alleged acts of others,” Greenspon also said.

At the press conference held to announce the team’s suspension, U of O president Allan Rock said “the shadow cast by the allegations of misconduct has affected all members of the team — some unfairly,” but noted the university is in a difficult position and will have to “wait for the police investigation to run its course.”

The statement was partly an indirect response to an open letter to Rock penned by one of the suspended players. Pat Burns wrote that he felt “frustrated and betrayed by the very school and athletic department I have spent the last half-decade serving and representing.”

Rock also said that come September there will be new guidelines and policies when it comes to the management and expectations of varsity teams and competitive clubs. The university plans to immediately implement the recommendations made by experts.