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Island junior hockey player on trial for sexual assault

A teenage girl testified that on Jan. 31, 2023, Kenneth Boychuk sexually assaulted her while slapping and punching her until she blacked out
The Nanaimo courthouse. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The case of an Island junior hockey player on trial for sexual assault is raising questions about how the sport handles allegations of sexual violence.

The B.C. Supreme Court trial for 20-year-old Kenneth Boychuk, a former Nanaimo Buccaneers player, began in Nanaimo this week.

A teenage girl whose identity is protected by a publication ban testified in court she had seen Boychuk play for the Buccaneers before matching with him on a dating app, according to CHEK News.

The Buccaneers are one of 11 teams in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, which announced last month it would withdraw from the Hockey Canada framework as of next fall to operate as an independent farm league for the B.C. Hockey League.

The girl testified that on Jan. 31, 2023, Boychuk showed up uninvited at her home after she told him she was alone. She said he pushed past her into the house, pulled her into her room and sexually assaulted her while slapping and punching her until she blacked out.

She testified she told the Buccaneers’ management what happened at a game a few days later and then reported it to police.

Tali Campbell, the former general manager of the Buccaneers, said he advised the girl to go to the police and Boychuk was internally suspended while the team decided how to handle the situation.

When Boychuk was allowed to return to the team, he was required to follow a curfew, share his location, refrain from communicating with the girl and co-operate with an investigation.

Campbell, who is now general manager and chief operating officer of the Coquitlam Express, said he has faced hate mail and death threats since publicly defending his decision not to remove Boychuk from the team after the allegations were made.

“I do not believe every person who received an allegation should have the book thrown at them until that person is proven guilty in the courts. That being said, I do believe you have to put extra steps in place until the court makes their decision, which we did with Kenny,” he said in an email.

Campbell said if he suspended Boychuk while the police investigation was ongoing and he was ultimately found not guilty, that would serve no purpose.

Boychuk has pleaded not guilty. The trial is expected to continue next week and a verdict from the judge could take months.

Campbell said Boychuk was traded to the Kerry Park Islanders, based in Mill Bay, after requesting a trade to a team that would offer him a better opportunity in the playoffs.

The trade was unrelated to the criminal case and the Islanders team was made aware of the ongoing case, he said.

Boychuk began playing with the Islanders in early January this year, according to the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s website. The Islanders did not respond to an interview request Thursday.

Campbell said hockey’s reputation has taken a beating because of Hockey Canada’s handling of an allegation of a group sexual assault involving five players from Canada’s 2018 world junior team. The organization settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted on June 18, 2018 in a London hotel by eight elite teenage hockey players.

The settlement sparked outrage and led to a freeze of public funds to Hockey Canada.

Five players on the 2018 world junior team were charged with sexual assault in January after a criminal investigation was initially closed.

Campbell said unlike Hockey Canada, which tried to hide the allegations, Buccaneers management encouraged the girl who accused Boychuk to report it to the police, and the team has complied with requests from RCMP and the court.

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