Canucks forward Jake Virtanen denies sex assault allegations in response to lawsuit

Vancouver Canucks right wing Jake Virtanen (18) fights for control of the puck with Ottawa Senators defenceman Dylan DeMelo (2) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Tuesday, December 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Warning: This story contains a graphic description of sexual assault that readers may find upsetting.

VANCOUVER – Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen has filed a response to a Victoria, B.C., woman's lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting her back in 2017.

Virtanen's accuser, who is identified only as M.S. in court documents, has alleged the professional athlete drove her to a hotel in West Vancouver on Sept. 26 of that year and forced himself on her.

In his response, Virtanen acknowledged having sex with M.S. but said she consented "through her words and conduct."

"Mr. Virtanen says that he did not physically force the plaintiff to have intercourse with him," it reads. "Mr. Virtanen further denies that the plaintiff expressed any indication, verbal or physical, that she did not want to engage in sexual activity."

The response specifically denies that Virtanen "used his body weight and superior strength" to render M.S. powerless, quoting from her lawsuit, which was filed last month in B.C. Supreme Court.

Both M.S. and Virtanen agree that they met at the Calgary Stampede in July 2017, and exchanged text messages throughout the summer.

M.S.'s lawsuit claims Virtanen asked her to meet up with him after she came to Vancouver for a photoshoot and to visit friends on Sept. 26 of that year.

She said Virtanen picked her up from a friend's house in North Vancouver and drove her to a hotel, where she alleges that he touched and kissed her body while ignoring her repeated assertions that she did not want to have sex.

"Virtanen proceeded to push open the plaintiff's legs and to have sexual intercourse with the plaintiff without the plaintiff's consent," her lawsuit reads.

M.S.'s statement of claim indicates she was "a youth" at the time of the incident, but does not give her age. Virtanen was 20.

According to his response, Virtanen "understood that the plaintiff was 18 years old" when they met in Calgary.

The allegations in the documents have not been tested in court.

Virtanen remains on leave from the Vancouver Canucks, pending the results of an independent investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him.