The NHL announced it has found no evidence to connect former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole to allegations of having had sex with a minor. Cole now plays for Tampa Bay Lightning, who are visiting the Penguins Saturday.
Cole was suspended (with pay) last week after an anonymous Twitter account accused him of “grooming” a high school student and another for sexual activity.
Through his agent, Cole immediately denied the allegations, which included accusations that unnamed teammates from an unidentified team knew of the activity and reached out to the victim.
The investigation of the allegations, which were made anonymously in a Twitter post on Oct. 7, was conducted by the League’s Security and Legal departments. Cole was interviewed twice.
Cole has played for the St. Louis Blues, Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, and Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay officials also released a statement:
Following an investigation by the National Hockey League into allegations that surfaced recently via social media, which included multiple interviews and attempts to contact the source of the post, Ian Cole has been cleared to return to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The organization takes these accusations very seriously and supports the conclusion from the NHL investigation. We look forward to Ian returning to the team and appreciate his full cooperation throughout the process of this investigation.”
Cole issued a statement through the team after the league made its announcement.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond to and refute the anonymous allegations made against me, which I categorically deny,” he said. “I’m looking forward to returning to the ice with my teammates and will have no further comments on this matter going forward.”
UPDATE: The NHLPA also released a statement about 90 minutes after the NHL release. The players union called the suspension “grossly unfair,” and asserted that players should not be subject to suspensions for unsubstantiated, anonymous allegations.
The NHLPA has issued a statement regarding the NHL’s recent investigation. pic.twitter.com/Ee3eOWNGmD
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) October 15, 2022