Ian Cole with the Hurricanes in May 2022. May 24, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ian Cole (28) talks with coaches during the third period against the New York Rangers in game four of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a lot of discussion of problematic sexual behavior in the hockey world recently, from the Chicago Blackhawks and those who worked with them around the Brad Aldrich revelations to the recent talk around Hockey Canada. The latest development here is with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole.

On Friday, an anonymous Twitter account using the name of Emily Smith posted disturbing allegations of grooming over a four-year period involving Cole (seen above in May with the Carolina Hurricanes). Those began when the woman in question was a minor. Those are seen in the tweet below (content warning):

On Sunday, that led to reports from Katie Strang of The Athletic and Rick Westhead of TSN on the NHL looking into this, and then the Lightning themselves initially suspending Cole:

Update: Cole responded with a statement through his agent, relayed by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan Sunday:

With many of these discussions, including what’s going on with Hockey Canada, there’s a lot of debate over what actions are appropriate when. The particular resolution here seems logical for the moment. This means the Lightning are taking their own initiative in determining it’s not great for them to have Cole around right now (their 2022-23 season opener is Tuesday, on the road against the New York Rangers), and an immediate suspension from a player’s own club carries less questions and less pushback than the league imposing a suspension on a club. But there’s still a lot to be determined here in terms of actual investigation and actual conclusions.

Cole, 33, was drafted in the first round (18th overall) by the St. Louis Blues in the 2007 NHL Draft. He turned pro in 2010 following the end of his college career with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and played for the Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, and Carolina Hurricanes until this summer, when he joined the Lightning on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. We’ll see what this investigation leads to for him and the Lightning.

(Update: The Lightning reinstated Cole Oct. 15, following the NHL closing the investigation after saying they were unable to contact Cole’s accuser.)

[Rick Westhead on Twitter, The Tampa Bay Times; photo from Danny Wild/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.