The Tampa Bay Lightning has suspended defenseman Ian Cole, 33, who previously played for the Colorado Avalanche, pending an investigation into allegations made on social media that he sexually abused a woman when she was a minor.
According to a statement released by the Tampa Bay Lightning and obtained by ESPN, the team said: "Our organization takes these allegations very seriously. While we continue to gather more details, we have decided to suspend Ian Cole pending the results of an investigation. No members of the organization, including players, will comment further at this time."
ESPN also published a statement from Cole, which was released through his agent, Kevin Magnuson. Cole said he denies the allegations against him and is cooperating.
"I take the allegations made against me today in an anonymous tweet very seriously,'' the statement from Cole reads. "I look forward to clearing my name and demonstrating to the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning that these allegations are unfounded.''
ESPN reported that the allegations against Cole were made from an anonymous account on Twitter, which claimed that Cole had sexually abused and groomed the user while she was a minor in high school. The account was created last month.
"It has taken me years to find the courage to come forward and I have decided to speak out anonymously because sadly I feel that this is the only way I can be fully transparent without harassment and retaliation," the Twitter post reads.
In the posting, the person accused Cole of emotional and sexual abuse, and said the NHL must hold itself and its players accountable for creating an environment of misogynistic and predatory behavior.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press earlier Sunday the league had launched an investigation.
Daly added the league had no prior knowledge of the allegations until they were posted on social media.
Cole signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Lightning in July, according to ESPN.
Cole, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, played for the Colorado Avalanche from 2018 through 2021 as a defenseman.
He has also played with the Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins.
This is the latest off-ice scandal to rock hockey and bring the sport’s culture into question.
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.”