Accused former junior hockey coach testifies, denies alleged sex assault ever occurred

Warning: this story contains details of an alleged sexual assault.

A former junior hockey coach accused of sexual assault against a 17-year-old in 1988 has denied the alleged incidents ever took place.

Bernard “Bernie” Lynch has entered pleas of not guilty to charges of sexual assault and assault.

The trial is being held at the Court of King’s Bench in Regina.

Lynch, 69, coached hockey in North America and Europe for 47 years. Lynch was the subject of a CBC News investigation in 2021, in which parents and players alleged abusive behaviour.

The complainant in the current case testified on Tuesday that he was 17 when he was sexually assaulted by Lynch in a shower at Lynch’s home.

At the time, the complainant was taking part in a Regina Pats hockey school that ran between Aug. 7, 1988, and Aug. 12, 1988. At the time Lynch was the assistant coach of the Pats.

Any information that could identify the complainant or his then-girlfriend — who testified earlier on Thursday — is protected by a publication ban granted by Justice Peter T. Bergbusch.

Lynch denies assault

Lynch took to the stand Thursday afternoon to testify in his own defence. He was the only witness called in the defence’s case.

The former junior hockey coach confirmed that he had invited the complainant to the hockey school and that he believed the complainant was a very skilled young hockey player. 

The complainant has previously said he understood he was going to stay with Lynch on the night he arrived, Aug. 7, before moving to a hotel on the second night.

Lynch said he never told the complainant he was going to stay at Lynch’s appointment.

During his testimony, Lynch also denied that he ever took part in the Pats’ Hockey School in 1988, despite being advertised as taking part in the camp in a poster published in The Leader-Post that summer. 

WATCH | Accuser speaks out against junior hockey coach facing sexual assault charge: 

Accuser speaks out against junior hockey coach facing sexual assault charge

The man accusing longtime junior hockey coach Bernie Lynch of sexual assault and assault tells CBC News what he says happened and why it took him more than 30 years to press charges.

Instead, Lynch said he was coaching at a Hockey Canada tournament in Calgary between Aug. 12 and Aug. 20.

Lynch testified that the complainant was incorrect and actually arrived in Regina on Aug. 5, 1988. Lynch said he knew that because Lynch flew from Regina to Calgary on Aug. 6, 1988. As evidence, the defence provided a photograph of the team Lynch was coaching. Lynch identified himself in the photo.

Lynch got visibly frustrated multiple times under cross examination from senior Crown prosecutor Chris White. Lynch bristled when challenged about the date he flew out, his role at the clinic and his denial of the alleged assault.

At one point he even shouted that the testimony of the complainant was “not an an accurate picture of Bernie Lynch. I would not do that.”

The complainant said that while staying at Lynch’s apartment, he was offered beer and, despite declining multiple times, was ultimately pressured into drinking.

The complainant said Lynch encouraged him to get naked and walk in front of the apartment’s patio door, and that he ultimately did.

Under questioning from White the complainant testified that he later tried to sober up by taking a shower.

A man in a speckled shirt walks down the stairs of a courthouse.
Former junior hockey coach Bernard ‘Bernie’ Lynch has entered not guilty pleas to a count of assault and sexual assault. (Alexander Quon/CBC)

The complainant said he believed the bathroom door was shut and locked, but that Lynch eventually joined him in the shower.

The complainant testified he did not want any romantic or sexual relationship with Lynch and had not invited Lynch to join him in the shower.

The junior hockey coach then grasped the teen’s penis, the complainant said. He testified that he repeatedly said no, but that Lynch continued to touch him. Lynch then told the teen that they should masturbate together, the complainant testified. He also said Lynch grabbed his hand and placed it on Lynch’s genitals.

The complainant said he agreed to masturbate Lynch after being told that if he did so, that would be the end of it.

“I was intimidated, scared,” the complainant testified. “He’s a coach, an authority figure. He’s telling me to do what I’m told.”

The next day, at the hockey camp, Lynch teased and physically touched the teen, the complainant testified. That included smacking the complainant on the rear, hitting him in the genitals with his key ring and punching the complainant’s shoulder.

An artist's sketch showing the anonymized complainant testifying during the trial of Bernard "Bernie" Lynch.
An artist’s sketch showing the anonymized complainant testifying during the trial of Bernard ‘Bernie’ Lynch. Senior Crown prosecutor Chris White and defence lawyer Andrew Hitchcock are shown facing the witness box. (Joel Hustak/CBC)

The complainant said Tuesday that he felt compelled to stay quiet because of the unwritten code of hockey dictating that whatever happened in the dressing room, stayed in the dressing room. He said he thought going public would negatively affect his career as a professional hockey player.

On the stand, Lynch denied all of the complainant’s testimony, saying it did not happen and that the complainant was dropped off at a hotel the night of the alleged assault rather than staying at his house.

Lynch said he did not see the complainant again until he took to the stand earlier this week.

Lynch said he was fired from the Pats in 1989 as a result of the team not making the playoffs, as well as rumours of the alleged assault, which he denied.

The complainant went to police approximately 30 years after the alleged assault. He said he only did so once news stories emerged about Lynch being investigated by the RCMP and returning to coaching.

Complainant’s former girlfriend testifies

White called his second and final witness, a woman who was the complainant’s girlfriend in 1988, earlier Thursday.

The woman testified that she and the complainant dated for approximately six months in 1988. 

She said that she and the complainant are no longer close, but that as a teenager, he was fun-loving and driven to succeed at becoming a professional hockey player.

She said the complainant didn’t drink, and was close with his friends. 

The woman, who testified remotely, said the complainant was very excited about attending the Regina Pats hockey school.

However, she said his demeanour changed after he came back from the camp. 

“He was very different. He was very clingy and needed reinforcement,” she said. 

“He wasn’t the same kind of cheery, uplifting person. There was a cloud about him.”

An artist's sketch of Bernard "Bernie" Lynch sitting in the prisoner's docket at the Court of King's Bench in Regina.
An artist’s sketch of Bernard ‘Bernie’ Lynch sitting in the prisoner’s docket at the Court of King’s Bench in Regina. (Joel Hustak/CBC)

The woman said the complainant told her he was no longer interested in pursuing hockey professionally. She said she didn’t understand the change the longest time, but eventually got the complainant to open up and he told her about the incident. She would later inform the complainant’s parents about what had happened. 

The woman didn’t testify about what specifically she was told. 

White closed his case after the woman’s brief testimony.

The trial is scheduled to run through Friday. Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday morning.

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. ​​If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911. 

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