NHL Clears Lightning Defenseman Ian Cole of Sex Abuse Allegation

The NHL investigated the anonymous allegation that Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole had pressured a minor female into having sex with him.  After their investigation, the NHL cleared Cole and stated the allegation is unsubstantiated.  Cole was suspended by the Lightning after an anonymous tweet was publicized accusing the NHL veteran of sexual abuse.

Regardless of Cole's innocence or guilt, the NHL had no business investigating this criminal allegation. It's the duty of law enforcement to investigate crimes.  Both the NHL and the Lightning have a vested interest in clearing Cole and could in no way deny a conflict of interest.  This is similar to the Catholic Church Review Board's determining the guilt or innocence of a priest or the Boy Scouts declaring judgment on one of their scout leaders. 

Of course, if the tweet is truly anonymous and the alleged victim is not willing or able to come forward, it is difficult for the police or any other investigative boy to look into the circumstances surrounding the allegation.  However, under no circumstances should the NHL be making such pronouncements.  They have clearly overstepped their boundaries and their authority. 

The investigation of Cole comes as the NHL is in the midst of reviewing allegations made by woman who said she was sexually assaulted by eight members of the Canada’s world junior team at a gala in 2018. News surfaced earlier this year Hockey Canada settled a lawsuit with the woman. Several players from that team currently play in the NHL.

Talking about the Hockey Canada situation, Commissioner Gary Bettman in July said he did not think hockey has a culture problem.

“I think there are problems that are experienced in all sports and throughout society that are unacceptable and I don’t think we’re any different in that regard than anybody else and I certainly don’t think that’s an issue at the NHL level,” Bettman said at the time. “I can’t speak necessarily to the other levels of hockey. Not to suggest it makes it OK, but there were widely reported other incidents in other sports and conduct that’s unacceptable. I want to hold our game to a higher standard.”

If Bettman is serious about holding "our game to a higher standard", he should start by making sure law enforcement investigates such claims and not his office.  That's the higher standard the public should expect.