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Tributes to Cal Foote and Dillon Dubé raise heated arguments as players are charged with attacking a woman in London, Ont.

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Bruce Hamilton, general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, stands on the ice at Prospera Place with Dillon Dubé and Cal Foote on Jan. 17, 2018, as they hold medals from the World Juniors. The players are charged with sexual assaulting a woman after a fundraiser in London, Ont., five months after this photo was taken.Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

The Kelowna Rockets Wall of Recognition is located around Section 112 in Prospera Place. Just walk past the craft beer vendor and follow your nose toward the dressing rooms.

There, the larger-than-life portraits of 22 former Rockets don the cinder block walls, each one considered a local hero for exploits with Kelowna’s major-junior Western Hockey League franchise, one step from the NHL.

Scott Parker, the team’s all-time leader in penalty minutes, is striking a fighter’s pose. Then there’s Leon Draisaitl, who spent 51 electrifying games here before going on to win the NHL’s Hart trophy as league MVP. And who could forget Duncan Keith, winner of three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks? All of them logged time here in their teens before heading off for NHL glory.

But on a recent Saturday tilt against the rival Kamloops Blazers, it was two newer honourees attracting the most attention.

“Surprised they haven’t put a sheet over these,” snickered one fan, Jerry Hales, pointing at images of Cal Foote and Dillon Dubé, two former Rockets who earned their place on the wall by winning gold with Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team.

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The likenesses of Mr. Dubé and Mr. Foote adorn the Wall of Recognition at Prospera Place.Kelowna Rockets/CHL

On Feb. 5, police in London, Ont., announced sexual assault charges against five players from that team, including Mr. Foote and Mr. Dubé. The group is accused of attacking a woman in a hotel after a Hockey Canada fundraiser.

Their lawyers have issued statements saying the players deny wrongdoing and will fight the allegations in court.

Some locals are now questioning the duo’s place among the team pantheon. The team isn’t eager to provide answers.

“I’m not getting caught up in this,” said Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton by phone, referring all further questions to the WHL.

WHL spokesman Taylor Rocca forwarded a statement from the Canadian Hockey League, umbrella organization for the WHL, saying the team is “aware” of the London police announcement and “shares the public outrage over the allegations,” but won’t be commenting further.

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At Prospera Place, signs outside the team shop and administration office depict Ogopogo, a legendary creature associated with the lake beside Kelowna.Aaron Hemens/The Globe and Mail/The Globe and Mail

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Based at Prospera Place, the Rockets – which relocated here from Tacoma, Wash., in 1995 – play in the Western Hockey League.Aaron Hemens/The Globe and Mail

Within the bowels of Prospera Place, fans for both teams were far more keen to talk about the issue that has roiled the hockey world and the possibility of the murals being covered up or removed. “I’m so on the fence about that,” says Chris Connelly, wearing the jersey of the opposing Kamloops Blazers. On the one hand, the allegations are horrific, he said. On the other, he was wary of rushing to judgment. “You know, cancel culture or whatever you’d like to call it,” he said.

A junior hockey obsessive, Mr. Connelly cited recent precedent for removing such honours. Earlier this year, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds removed a banner recognizing former player, GM and head coach John Vanbiesbrouck. In 2003, Mr. Vanbiesbrouck acknowledged using a racial slur to describe team captain Trevor Daley, who is Black.

With Kelowna up 2-1, one couple sauntered past the murals and fell into a lover’s quarrel over their fate.

“If the police have enough to charge them, it’s serious, and they should cover these up,” said the young woman. “I disagree,” said her boyfriend, wearing a Draisaitl jersey.

“Says the guy who hasn’t read anything about the case,” she retorted.

“Innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

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Mr. Foote and Mr. Dubé, in #25 and #19, respectively, skate at Prospera Place against the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2016 and Kootenay Ice in 2017.Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

Online exchanges have been more heated. Bill Henthorn, a moderator for one Rockets fan page on Facebook, has warned users against posting about the 2018 world junior team altogether. “I think the majority of us just want it to play out the way it should, in the courts,” he said in an interview at the game. “The page is designed to support the current team. It’s a touchy subject.”

Then his voice took on a warble of emotion. “I’ve got pictures of these guys with my kids on my living room wall,” he said.

Junior hockey teams form a powerful bond with the small cities they represent, he explained. Players billet with local families and often attend local high schools. They’re approachable around town and in the rink. WHL ticket prices top out at around $30, giving teams a broad appeal. “We develop attachments to these guys,” he said. “And once they age out, they go and it’s emotional at times. At the end of the season, you know you’re not going to see these guys again and it’s tears.”

So how should the team address local heroes facing criminal charges? “We shouldn’t be going ripping murals off walls just yet,” he said. “Do I think it should come to that? I don’t know. I don’t condone violence against women or men.”

One Kelowna resident, Wilbur Turner, doesn’t consider himself much of a hockey fan, but says the team is a source of pride for the city and inspiration for his grandkids. “In most cases, that’s a good thing, but in this instance there’s a bit of a dark shadow around their reputation, and the reputation of hockey in general,” he said.

An advocate for the LGBTQ+ causes, he says the team’s reluctance to speak about the issue is a lost opportunity to show support for human rights. “That the team is not saying anything is very powerful,” he said. “I don’t believe it sends the right message.”

Hockey sex-assault case: More from The Globe and Mail

Robyn Doolittle, the reporter behind The Globe’s Unfounded project, has been following the Hockey Canada saga as details become public. She spoke with The Decibel about the alleged 2018 incident and the five players charged. Subscribe for more episodes.

Sex-assault case fills London, Ont., with anxious buzz and awkward silence

London police apologize to woman at centre of sex-assault case

Hockey Canada keeps suspension of 2018 national junior players in place

The ‘invaluable crisis manager’ leading the NHL’s probe of the 2018 Canadian world junior hockey scandal

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