Lightning suspend Ian Cole as NHL opens investigation into sexual assault allegations

Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Ian Cole (28) has been suspended indefinitely while the NHL investigates allegations of sexual assault and grooming made against him in a Twitter post. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

Editor's Note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be distressing for some readers.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have suspended Ian Cole after accusations of sexual assault and grooming were made against the defenceman in a statement posted to Twitter Friday.

The Lighting say Cole will remain suspended "pending the results of an investigation" being led by the NHL. The team says it is "cooperating fully with the NHL on an investigation" and that it will have no further comment.

"Our organization takes these allegations very seriously," the Lightning statement says.

Twitter user Emily_Smith3333 accused Cole of grooming and sexually assaulting them in a statement posted Friday. The statement does not say when or where the alleged assault occurred, but Emily_Smith3333 says that they were in high school and Cole was an active NHL player at the time.

After the suspension was announced, Cole issued a statement through his agent in which he denied the allegations and said that he "will fully cooperate" with the investigation.

"I take the allegations made against me today in an anonymous tweet very seriously," Cole said in his statement. "I look forward to clearing my name and demonstrating to the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning that these allegations are unfounded."

Cole joined the Lightning on a one-year contract in free agency this summer. The 33-year-old is entering his 13th season in the NHL and he has previously played for the Blues, Penguins, Avalanche, Blue Jackets, Wild and Hurricanes.

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