The Belfast Giants are preparing for their final two Challenge Cup group games this weekend against the Glasgow Clan with their opponents in disarray both on and off the ice after events over the past 24 hours.
he Clan are currently without head coach Malcolm Cameron and Chief Executive Officer Gareth Chalmers, who have been suspended pending an investigation into the club’s signing of Finnish defenceman Lasse Uusivirta – a player on a sexual assault charge in the United States – which received significant backlash from the fanbase.
The Scottish club announced the 33-year-old’s arrival on Thursday night but less than three hours later issued a follow-up statement confirming they would no longer be signing him after fan outrage.
Uusivirta was reportedly arrested in 2013 when he was a student at the University of Alabama-Huntsville after the alleged rape of an 18-year-old female student, but fled back to his native Finland with no intention of returning, according to the assistant district attorney who handled the case.
In another statement on Friday morning, Clan owner Neil Black confirmed the suspensions of Cameron and Chalmers while an investigation was undertaken into the events surrounding Uusivirta’s signing.
“At 1945hrs last night, I was made aware for the first time of a major situation which merits further internal investigation and this has led to the immediate suspension of both the Clan Chief Executive Gareth Chalmers & the Clan Head Coach Malcolm Cameron,” it read.
Clan fans took to social media in the immediate aftermath of the announcement to declare their outrage, with many suggesting they would boycott tonight’s game against the Giants at the Braehead Arena (7.30pm) in protest.
As well as back in Finland, Uusivirta went on to play in Denmark, Germany and Austria after fleeing the United States, and was due to join the Clan after two seasons with Italian side Ritten/Renon.
The Clan have struggled in the opening month of the season having lost all seven of their competitive games so far, and this off-ice distraction will not help matters, particularly with the undefeated Giants arriving in Glasgow on Friday evening.