Skip to main content

Los Angeles Kings defenceman Slava Voynov.

Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports

The National Football League demonstrated how not to handle allegations of domestic violence over these past few months. There was commissioner Roger Goodell, getting pilloried repeatedly for his league's response to the Ray Rice domestic-abuse case, among others.

Nothing makes a senior sports executive squirm more than the need to make a very public apology after a major publicrelations gaffe.

So when Los Angeles Kings defenceman Slava Voynov was arrested Monday on accusations of domestic violence, the National Hockey League responded with an uncharacteristically swift response. Long before the details became public - that Voynov had been arrested, taken into custody and ultimately freed on $50,000 (U.S.)

Story continues below advertisement

bail - the league suspended him indefinitely with pay, pending a formal investigation into the matter.

The NHL imposed the suspension under Section 18-A.5 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which gives the league the right to suspend a player who is facing a criminal investigation "pending the league's formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the league."

It was a marked contrast to the wait-and-see approach the NHL took about a year ago when Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was arrested on second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault charges.

In Varlamov's case, the league acknowledged it was "aware of the situation" but would not "comment unless or until we have a fuller understanding of the facts and circumstances related to the legal charges that have been filed."

Varlamov continued to play and, ultimately, the charges against him were dropped.

According to Lieutenant Joe Hoffman of the Redondo Beach police department, Voynov was arrested after officers were called to the Little Company of Mary Hospital Emergency Room, where an adult female was being treated for injuries that might have been received during a domestic-violence incident.

After meeting with the victim, the officers conducted an investigation that resulted in Voynov's arrest.

Story continues below advertisement

Voynov, who was also present at the hospital, was released at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning after posting bond, and is scheduled to appear in a Torrance, Calif., courtroom Dec. 1, 2014.

Veteran Montreal Canadiens centre Manny Malhotra characterized the league's decision to immediately suspend Voynov as "pro-active," and said "I'm glad to see it."

The 17-year veteran, a member of the NHL Players' Association bargaining committee during the 2012-13 lockout, said domestic violence is "a sensitive issue, but also a very serious one ... you want to be ahead of the curve."

The Kings issued their own brief statement, endorsing the NHL's actions and calling the developments "of great concern to our organization. We support the NHL's decision to suspend Slava Voynov indefinitely during this process, and we will continue to take appropriate action as the legal proceedings and the investigation by the NHL take their course."

According to Malhotra, the league's decision to act before Voynov has his day in court was defensible - NHL players are public figures, which distinguishes them from employees in most other work environments.

"This is a pretty special workplace, only 700 of us get to be part of it," said Malhotra - and it is in the interests of both the league and its players to be held to a high standard of behaviour.

Story continues below advertisement

In the last three months, a number of NFL players have been suspended for domestic violence, most notably Rice. He was initially let off with what amounted to a hand-slap - a two-game suspension - until video evidence emerged and public anger about the lightness of the penalty caused the NFL to reassess and suspend him indefinitely.

The Ravens eventually cut ties with Rice - the team and the NFL have been in serious damage-control mode ever since for their mishandling of the situation.

Bettman wasn't talking about the Voynov case Monday, but addressed the issue of domestic violence twice in the last couple of months - once in Toronto and then again in Los Angeles, where he attended the Kings' opener earlier this month, on the night they raised their 2014 Stanley Cup banner.

Speaking to reporters before the Kings played the San Jose Sharks, Bettman said the league and the NHL players association have worked together to address the issue of domestic violence for more than a decade, in both the annual player briefings with the league's security department and through counsellors working in the joint NHL/NHLPA program for substance abuse and behavioral health.

Bettman talked about how NHL players "overwhelmingly" conduct themselves "magnificently" off the ice. Should any incidents emerge, Bettman said, he was confident the league had the "authority and mechanisms" to punish offenders, if necessary, on a case-by-case basis. He concluded: "Our players know what's right and wrong."

Most probably do.

Story continues below advertisement

But it is naive to assume that, in a cohort as large as the NHL's, there won't be exceptions.

Voynov will have his day in court and will also face scrutiny from the NHL's investigative team. In the meantime, his next public appearance will be in a courtroom, not at an arena near you.

Follow related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies