Limited circle knew of hockey player's sex assault conviction, probe finds
Published Wednesday, June 24, 2015 6:37PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 24, 2015 7:40PM EDT
Few members of the Stratford Cullitons knew with certainty that one of their teammates had been found guilty of sexual assault, an investigation ordered by the hockey team concludes.
Mitch Vandergunst was convicted last fall on two counts of sexual assault.
He continued to suit up for the Cullitons until late January, when team higher-ups knew of the situation.
Coach Phil Westman had been notified about the convictions, but did not pass that information on to anyone else.
He resigned in the aftermath of Vandergunst’s departure, ending a 15-year association with the franchise.
Another player – a friend of Vandergunst’s – parted ways with the Cullitons at the time as well.
The team ordered an investigation into the entire affair – the results of which were made public Wednesday.
Private firm Eagle Investigations interviewed 62 people in an attempt to determine who knew of Vandergunst’s situation and how it was handled once it became public.
On the first point, they found that the number of people who knew what was going on “was limited to the coach and a small number of players.”
Other players heard whispers of it, the report says, but “generally believed it to be gossip.”
Westman, the report found, decided not to take any action because he felt he would lose the trust of the team.
“There was a coach that knew, who made the decision not to tell,” team president Dan Mathieson told CTV News.
“There were players that were aware that there was trouble within the organization … and decided not to say anything.
“We want to make sure our organization becomes better.”
The Cullitons have since enacted a policy requiring any adult affiliated with the team to notify two people in the organization if they are charged with a criminal offence.