Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole was interviewed at the NHL office in New York for roughly an hour on Wednesday afternoon as part of the league’s investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him, sources told ESPN.
At the time of the interview, the person who posted a lengthy statement on Twitter saying Cole sexually abused and groomed her as a minor had not come forward — and the league is unable to identify the creator of the account without subpoenaing Twitter or obtaining a court order, sources said.
Cole, who signed with the Lightning as a free agent this offseason, has been suspended by the team with pay “pending the results of an investigation” and missed its season opener on Tuesday. Cole has denied the allegations and said in a statement that he looks forward to clearing his name.
It is unclear what the next steps will be. Tampa Bay’s next game is Friday in Columbus.
If Cole remains out of the lineup for an extended period without the league finding evidence to corroborate the allegations, the NHL Players’ Association would file a grievance, sources said.
The interview with Cole was conducted by Jared Maples, the NHL’s chief of security. Maples previously served as the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
Cole, 33, is entering his 13th season in the league. The allegations against Cole were made on Friday by a Twitter user who called herself Emily Smith. In a post, Smith wrote that Cole sexually abused and groomed her for four years, beginning when she was in high school.
“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,” she wrote.