A proud Jake Virtanen posed with his first NHL goal as a Vancouver Canuck. Now suspended due to sex assault allegations, Virtanen started his hockey career as a peewee-level player in Langley (file)

A proud Jake Virtanen posed with his first NHL goal as a Vancouver Canuck. Now suspended due to sex assault allegations, Virtanen started his hockey career as a peewee-level player in Langley (file)

VIDEO: Suspended Canuck Jake Virtanen got his start in Langley

Growing up in Walnut Grove, he played for hockey, roller hockey, and lacrosse teams

Jake Virtanen’s achievements on the ice are in danger of being overshadowed by accusations about his behaviour off the ice, with the 24-year-old Vancouver Canucks right-winger placed on leave by the team after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her at a hotel.

READ MORE: Canucks place Jake Virtanen on leave following sexual misconduct allegations

Virtanen began his hockey career in Langley, growing up in Walnut Grove and playing for the Langley Eagles minor hockey teams.

He was an all-round athlete, who also played lacrosse and roller hockey

Langley Advance Times archives show Virtanen was a member of the Langley Thunder novice advanced lacrosse team that won bronze at the Richmond Salmon Fest event in 2006.

Virtanen also played defence for the Langley West Coast Warriors, who won the 2007 Mite Platinum (U11) Division at the North American Roller Hockey Championship.

At the time, Virtanen praised his follow players to the newspaper, saying that while the competition was tough, the fact the Warriors had been together for four years gave them an edge.

“We are good together, and we play as a team,” said Virtanen.

In a 2019 interview with the sportsnet.ca website, Virtanen, who would go on to forge a reputation as a physical player, described how he would roughhouse with his brother in the basement of the family townhouse.

“A lot of walls were broken,” he said.

Virtanen described how Langley, where he spent the first 12 years of his life, still felt like home.

When he was in Grade 7, his family moved to Abbotsford.

As a 15-year-old, Virtanen spent most of the 2011–12 season in midget hockey with the Fraser Valley Bruins where he scored 39 points in 39 games and recorded 120 penalty minutes.

Virtanen went on to play with the WHL Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League and has represented Canada five times in international competitions.

Selected sixth overall in the 2014 NHL entry draft by the Canucks, he was the first B.C.-born player selected in the first round by the Canucks since Cam Neely in 1983.

On Saturday, May 1, Vancouver Canucks announced Virtanen had been placed on leave following allegations of sexual misconduct.

The team released a statement saying it “does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously.”

A woman claimed Virtanen had sexually assaulted her at a Vancouver hotel.

In a media interview, the woman said she spoke out after seeing other women come forward with their own experiences on an anonymous Instagram account.

READ ALSO: Abbotsford’s Magnuson Ford temporarily severs ties with Canucks forward Jake Virtanen

Virtanen could not be reached for comment.

Is there more to the story? Email: dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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