Ex-Junior Hockey Coach Refutes Decades-Old Sexual Assault Claims in Court

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Bernard “Bernie” Lynch, a former junior hockey coach in Saskatchewan, stands accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old hockey player in Regina. Now 69, Lynch denies the accusations, asserting he was out of town when the alleged incidents occurred on August 7 and August 8, 1988. As the defense’s sole witness, Lynch provided testimony that sharply contrasted with the account given by the now-adult alleged victim.

The former assistant coach for the Regina Pats argues that the allegations paint a false picture of him, stating “This is all baffling to me. This is not an accurate case or picture of Bernie Lynch. I would not do this.” The charges he faces consist of one count of sexual assault and one count of assault.

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The accuser testifies that he was staying at Lynch’s apartment as prearranged accommodation when the alleged attacks took place. According to his account, Lynch purchased alcohol and suggested they rent an adult film before sexually assaulting him in the bath.

Lynch insists he wasn’t even present at that time. Under oath, he stated that he went to Alberta for a coaches’ conference related to the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence tournament scheduled for later in August. As such, he claims he was unable to participate in the hockey school in question.

The prosecution confronted him regarding his early departure, nine days before the team’s initial game, which they suggest implies his attendance at the hockey school and thereby contradicts his alibi. Lynch fervently denied these inferences made by the Crown.

His version of events include meeting the complainant to help him check into a hotel then leaving early from a scrimmage the night before his flight to Calgary. Lynch maintains he did not see the complainant afterward. Asked whether he might have forgotten a trip to his apartment with the claimant in the thirty-five years since the alleged incident, Lynch admitted the possibility before refuting it during the prosecution’s cross-examination.

In his testimony, Lynch drew attention to his extensive 47-year career coaching at various levels, both domestically and internationally, emphasizing the professional norms and conduct of a coach. According to him, the thought of staying in a room with a player is incongruent with acceptable adult behaviour around teenagers.

He told the court that he recognized the complaint’s name, despite coaching numerous players over his career, because rumours of the alleged assault had been an obstacle to his employment since 1989. During his testimonial, Lynch also brought up his family circumstances at the time, questioning why he would risk everything for such insidious behaviour.

During questioning, Lynch admitted to a pervasive “culture of silence” within hockey circles that made it risky for players to voice their grievances in the 1980s. He suggested that leveraging such complaints could have jeopardized their careers.

Meanwhile, the victim’s former girlfriend spoke as the Crown’s second and final witness, focusing on the noticeable behavioural shifts in the complainant post the hockey school. She recollects him being less jovial and more withdrawn, with a “cloud about him.”

She confirmed that the complainant confided in her about the alleged attack and that she initially encouraged and eventually informed his parents, with his consent. The proceedings are expected to move towards the closing arguments from both the defense and prosecution.