On Saturday, just before the puck dropped in the game involving the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Lightning released a statement announcing that the investigation involving alleged sexual assault and grooming of a minor by defenseman Ian Cole prior to his joining the club had been closed and he has been reinstated from his suspension. Their press release was as follows:
‘TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning today issued the following statement regarding the reinstatement of defenseman Ian Cole:
Following an investigation by the National Hockey League into allegations that surfaced recently via social media, which included multiple interviews and attempts to contact the source of the post, Ian Cole has been cleared to return to The Tampa Bay Lightning. The organization takes these accusations very seriously and supports the conclusion from the NHL investigation. We look forward to Ian returning to the team and appreciate his full cooperation throughout the process of this investigation.
‘I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond to and refute the anonymous allegations made against me, which I categorically deny,’ said Cole. ‘I’m looking forward to returning to the ice with my teammates and will have no further comments on this matter going forward.’
The Lightning organization, including players and coaches, will not make any further comment on the matter.”
The NHL also released a statement:
‘NEW YORK — The National Hockey League announced today that it had concluded its investigation into anonymous allegations posted on social media against Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole, having found no evidence to substantiate the allegations.
The investigation of the allegations, which were made anonymously in a social media post on Oct. 7, was conducted by the League’s Security and Legal departments.
The investigation included two separate interviews with Mr. Cole as well as interviews with NHL club personnel and other individuals with potentially relevant information. Further, the investigation included a detailed review of on-line and social media, public data, and court records and law enforcement checks. In addition, despite attempts by the League to make contact with the anonymous source of the social media post, those efforts were unsuccessful.
On the basis of the foregoing, the National Hockey League now considers this matter closed.’
With the matter considered closed by the team and the league, Cole could make his debut on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers at Amalie Arena.
A National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-656-4673 and other resources are available at rainn.org.
Editor’s Note: As we often do with posts that deal with sensitive topics such as sexual assault, we have removed the ability to comment. Thank you for your understanding.