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Ex-Canuck Jake Virtanen pleads not guilty to sexual assault charge

Former Vancouver Canucks player Jake Virtanen wants his trial for sexual assault to be heard by a B.C. Supreme Court judge and jury.
Jake Virtanen keeps an eye on the play during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. On Feb. 17, he pleaded not guilty to sexual assault. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

Former NHL player Jake Virtanen pleaded not guilty to sexual assault in Vancouver Provincial Court on Feb. 17.

Virtanen has elected to be tried by a B.C. Supreme Court judge and jury, lawyer Joseph Saulnier told Judge David St. Pierre.

He was charged with sexual assault in January following a Vancouver Police Department (VPD) investigation.

The VPD said in a media release that the B.C. Prosecution Service had approved the charge in relation to an incident that allegedly occurred in Vancouver on Sept. 26, 2017. 

Virtanen was playing in the National Hockey League at the time of the alleged incident.

Police say they started their investigation in May 2021 after a woman in her early 20s came forward.

The 25-year-old was placed on leave from the Vancouver Canucks in May 2021. He is currently signed to a one-year contract with the HC Spartak Moscow.

Virtanen is not in police custody. 

The Vancouver Canucks issued a statement at the time of the charges saying they were aware of them.

“When the allegations first came to our attention, we immediately placed Jake Virtanen on leave. He is no longer a member of the organization,” said the statement.

“We have been in contact with the Vancouver Police Department throughout their investigation and will continue to provide support as needed.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court and Virtanen remains entitled to the presumption of innocence.

The case moves to B.C. Supreme Court on March 9 to set a date.

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