NHL investigating allegations of sexual assault by Lightning’s Ian Cole - Updated with Tampa Bay Lightning’s statement

Content Warning - discussion of sexual assault and grooming of a minor to follow.

Updated at 8:11 p.m.

The Tampa Bay Lightning released a statement in regards to the situation. Ian Cole will be suspended (with pay) by the team pending the results of the investigation. The team’s statement is as follows:

“The Tampa Bay Lightning is aware of the allegations against player Ian Cole and are cooperating fully with the NHL on an investigation. Our organization takes these allegations very seriously. While we continue to gather more details, we have decided to suspend Ian Cole pending the results of an investigation. No members of the organization, including players, will comment further at this time."

Through his agent, Ian Cole also released a statement.

End Update

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed Ian Cole this summer to a 1-year, $3 million contract in order to solidify the left side of the defense in the wake of Ryan McDonagh’s departure from the team via a trade with the Nashville Predators. Over the weekend, accusations of sexual assault and grooming emerged on Twitter against the 33-year-old defenseman.

A Twitter user with the handle Emily Smith posted a long, detailed statement claiming that Cole maintained a four-year relationship with her that started while she was in high school. The statement continues with accusations that Cole also bragged about his relationship with his NHL teammates and made repeated misogynistic comments to the victim, who was an underaged minor at the time the relationship began.

The author of the Tweet also states that Cole continued the behavior with another high school student and became “angry and dismissive” when confronted.

Please note the following Tweet contains language that details sexual and emotional abuse.

While the wording of the statement indicates these actions happened prior to the Lightning signing him this summer, it is imperative that the organization take this claim seriously and open an investigation. As of publication, the team has not responded to a request for a statement. According to a Tweet from The Tampa Bay Times Eduardo Encina, the team is aware of situation and is investigating:

According to The Athletic’s Katie Strang and others, the NHL is also aware of these allegations and is “looking into them”:

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.