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Jury finds former Canucks forward Jake Virtanen not guilty of sexual assault

Virtanen was charged in January with sexual assault in connection with an incident in Vancouver
Former Vancouver Canucks NHL hockey player Jake Virtanen leaves B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break after closing arguments in his sexual assault trial, in Vancouver, on Monday, July 25, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A jury has found former Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen not guilty of sexual assault.

Virtanen wept openly when the verdict was read in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

He said in a statement that he is relieved he has been found not guilty.

“I am glad the truth has come to light,” he stated. “I am looking forward to resuming my career as an NHL player. For my whole life, I have dreamed about playing the sport I love, in the best league in the world. I want to thank my family, my friends, and my supporters, the people who stood behind me through these most difficult times.”

Virtanen was charged in January with sexual assault in connection with an incident in a downtown Vancouver hotel room in September 2017.

The 25-year-old former NHL player told the court last week that the woman was an “enthusiastic participant” in the encounter.

The 23-year-old woman, whose identity is covered by a publication ban, testified that she repeatedly said “no” and told Virtanen that she did not want to have sex with him.

RELATED: Woman testifies she felt ‘very violated’ after alleged sex assault by former Canuck Jake Virtanen

He took the stand on Thursday (July 21) and denied that he used his body weight to pin her down on the bed in his Vancouver hotel room in September 2017.

He said through tears that he was in “utter disbelief” when his agent told him in April 2021 that a woman was going to publicly accuse him of sexual misconduct.

Virtanen told the court he met the woman when he was 20 years old and she was 18 at the Calgary Stampede in 2017, and they stayed in touch over Instagram and text messages throughout that summer when they both returned to B.C.

They exchanged “flirtatious messages” and small talk, and discussed getting together when she came to Vancouver, he said.

Elden asked Virtanen if he thought they would have sex before he took her to his hotel room after picking her up from a friend’s house where she was staying.

RELATED: Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen charged with sexual assault

“I wasn’t sure, but that would be up to her,” he said.

“It would have been her choice.”

Virtanen testified the woman didn’t seem upset at any point.

They mutually began kissing and touching each other while lying on the bed, and they helped each other take their clothes off before having sex, he said.

The woman did not go to police in September 2017, the time of the alleged assault.

In April 2021, she posted her story to an Instagram page for survivors of sexual assault, then spoke with a reporter from Glacier Media for a newspaper story, naming Virtanen as the man who allegedly sexually assaulted her.

Virtanen was a member of the Canucks when the allegations surfaced in May 2021. The team placed him on leave and bought out his contract the following month. He last played in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League.

RELATED: Trial hears former Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen was ‘blotto’ when he met accuser