Just when we thought this off-season couldn’t get any worse, well... it did.
Around the internet, plenty of rumours were swirling following an alleged incident involving Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman. We have learned about these incidents today, which allegedly revolve around Hoffman’s longtime girlfriend, Monika Caryk.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, Caryk began a campaign of social media harassment towards Senators captain Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda, through now-deleted accounts on Twitter and Instagram. The details provided by the Citizen paint the cruel picture, from an incident following Melinda’s unfortunate stillbirth:
In an Instagram post mourning his son’s death, Erik Karlsson posted a photo of Axel’s tiny footprints. In the post, Karlsson thanked the city and the team’s fans for their love and support and wrote: “We feel very lucky to be Axel’s parents. Even though he was stillborn, we know we will hold him again one day under different circumstances and the joy he gave us will be with us forever.”
The post garnered more than 10,000 comments, with the overwhelming majority of them expressions of support and sympathy for the couple. However, one comment, posted by user @sandydandy45, stood out: “I feel bad for the baby he didn’t have a chance with Melinda popping pain killer medication everyday.”
Melinda has since filed a peace bond application against Caryk, alleging in a sworn statement to the court that she “has uttered numerous statements wishing my unborn child dead,” and “posted over 1,000 negative and derogatory statements about me as a professional.”
A peace bond exists as a way for a person to protect themselves against someone who they feel to be a threat to commit a crime against them, despite the person having not yet committed anything. The bond was originally filed on May 4th, and the Ottawa police have also begun to conduct an investigation for harassment.
Mike Hoffman has since released the following statement, denying the allegations:
“There is a 150 per cent chance that my fianceé [sic] Monika and I are not involved in any of the accusations that have been pursued (that are) coming our way. We totally understand there’s no place for cyberbullying.
“We’ve offered to co-operate and do anything it takes to find out who is doing this, and support (the Karlssons). Obviously this is a tough time that they’re going through, and we want to find out who is doing this, because for some reason it’s coming into our court, and it’s 150 per cent that it’s not us.
“We have nothing to hide. We’re willing to co-operate in any way to solve this and figure it out, and prove that it wasn’t us.”
Rumours about a potential Mike Hoffman trade have been vivid ever since the beginning of the Sens’ string of losses in December and January, although with the buzz resurfacing, it’s very possible that these allegations are connected.
Update: The Ottawa Senators have released the following statement.
“We are investigating this matter in cooperation with the NHL and will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the safety and privacy of our players and their families.”
Update 2: The original Ottawa Citizen report has been updated with several comments from Hoffman’s agent, Robert Hooper. He said Hoffman has not requested a trade, but would not stand in the way of one - possibly indicating that he would not use his no-trade clause to block any trade.
Hooper indicated that they have had multiple discussions with team management over the issue, stretching over the past two months. This certainly indicates that the team was aware before yesterday’s report.
Last, he claims that Hoffman and Karlsson have not discussed the issue. This runs contrary to quotes reported by Don Brennan from Mike Liut (the managing director for Octagon Hockey, Hooper’s boss), who said Hoffman denied Caryk’s involvement in a face-to-face between the two players at the end of the season. Brennan framed that face-to-face as a “parking lot confrontation” initiated by Karlsson.
A second protection order has been filed against a connected member of the Sens today, as we have also received an update to the Randy Lee situation. According to Katie Strang from The Athletic (paywall), the hotel employee which he allegedly harassed has filed a protection order that prohibits Lee from visiting the young man’s school, business and place of employment (i.e. the hotel), as well as from contacting him electronically. The order will remain in place until at least October 1st 2018, until which time Lee could face criminal prosecution
Lee, who currently holds titles as the Ottawa Senators’ assistance general and Belleville Senators’ general manager, has had no change in his organizational role since the incident. Additionally, team owner Eugene Melnyk has provided him with lawyer Paul Cambria, who also handled allegations against NHLers Patrick Kane and Evander Kane. Lee is scheduled to appear in court on July 6th.
The Senators had hired Nicolas Ruszkowski as their new COO two weeks ago, likely to manage the team’s public relations due to his extensive background in the field. He doesn’t officially start until June 14th, although it’s safe to say he’ll be stepping in to a challenging situation.
Update: Randy Lee’s court date has been moved from June 22nd to July 6th. He will no longer miss the first day of the NHL entry draft.