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Tampa Bay Lightning suspend Ian Cole pending sexual abuse investigation

"I completely deny these allegations and will fully cooperate" with investigators, the veteran defenseman said.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole before a preseason game Saturday in Tampa, Fla.Chris O'Meara / AP file

The Tampa Bay Lightning suspended defenseman Ian Cole after a woman accused him on social media of sexually abusing her when she was underage, the team said Sunday night.

The Lightning, who hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021 before they fell in the final last season, open the 2022-23 campaign Tuesday in New York against the Rangers.

“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," the team said in a statement. 

"While we continue to gather more details, we have decided to suspend Ian Cole, with pay, pending the results of an investigation. No members of the organization, including players, will comment further at this time.”

Cole, 33, a Michigan native, denied the allegation and said he'll cooperate with investigators.

"I take the allegations made against me today in an anonymous tweet very seriously. I completely deny these allegations and will fully cooperate with the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning, their officials and legal departments in the forthcoming investigation," Cole said in a statement.

"I look forward to clearing my name and demonstrating to the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning that these allegations are unfounded. I will have no further comment until the NHL’s investigation concludes."

Cole's suspension is the latest off-the-rink incident to have prompted institutions and leaders within the sport to question their handling of sexual abuse at virtually every level of hockey.

Over the weekend, Hockey Canada announced that interim chair Andrea Skinner had resigned as the governing board addresses multiple sexual assault allegations by the country’s world junior team.

The highest levels of the Canadian government have questioned whether the sport's governing body has done enough to curb sexual assault.

Skinner said she's worked hard "to make the game more safe, accessible, inclusive and welcoming."

"I am grateful to the Members of Hockey Canada for electing me to the Board of Directors and providing me with the opportunity to make positive change for our game and for Hockey Canada," she said in a statement released through Hockey Canada.

"Upon reflection, it is clear to me from recent events that it no longer makes sense for me to continue to volunteer my time as Interim Chair or as a Director of the organization." 

And last year, the name of a former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach, Brad Aldrich, was obscured from the Stanley Cup after he was accused of sexual assault. The allegations led the team's general manager to resign.

Aldrich declined to comment Monday on the allegations by the former Blackhawks player.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. The hotline, run by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can also access RAINN’s online chat service at Confidential chats are available in English and in Spanish.