(Warning: the below contains mentions of domestic abuse/assault.)
Back in February of this year, John Hoven of Mayor’s Manor discussed Slava Voynov on a radio talk show, and drew the conclusion that the Los Angeles Kings “would no longer block” a move for Slava Voynov. This possibility gained some ground among Kings fans, but the rumor hadn’t taken a single step beyond that until yesterday. At a press conference before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, a reporter asked Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly about the defenseman possibly coming back to the NHL. Daly denied that there had been any discussions about this and deferred to Commissioner Gary Bettman who would have final say in that decision. Here’s the full quote, via Pro Hockey Talk’s Mike Halford:
“If that was ever something that was proposed, we’re on record as saying that would require a proceeding before the commissioner,” Daly said, when asked about Voynov’s possible return.
When asked if Voynov had “served his time,” Daly offered the following:
“Ultimately that’s not my decision, that’ll be Gary’s decision.
“I don’t want to speculate either on what that might be. I’ve heard from time to time that he might have an interest in coming back to the National Hockey League, but that hasn’t advanced in any material way to this point.
“So let’s wait and see if it happens.”
To address the rumor itself: the logistics of an actual return would be exceedingly long, expensive, and complex. Voynov could apply, but whether or not he gets accepted less than two years after his voluntary self-deportation is another story. And as Daly mentioned, there is no sign that either the Kings or Voynov have made any moves toward a return. Hoven mentioned in May that the Kings had seen Voynov play in Russia, but (a) he happens to play on a KHL team with Alexander Dergachyov, LA’s third-round pick in 2016, and (b) at least one of the games was against Oscar Fantenberg, who the Kings signed to an entry-level contract in May.
It’s quite disappointing that this is even a story in 2017. (For what it’s worth, the question was posed by an unnamed Los Angeles Times reporter.) Former GM Dean Lombardi took the heat for allowing Voynov to practice with the team back in December 2014, more than a month after he had been suspended indefinitely for allegedly assaulting his wife. And rightly so. However, he is no longer with the Kings, and any further developments can’t be blamed on his romantic ideals of “loyalty” and... well... whatever was going through his head when he thought it’d be a good idea to allow Voynov to practice with the team. And director of scouting Mark Yannetti recently lumped in Voynov with Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll as losses that affected the team’s leadership. If LA can’t just let him go and refuse to walk away from this situation, they will catch hell for it and — again — rightly so. Because even when the Kings had a chance to come out of this clean once before, they still mucked it up and ended up offending almost everyone, but especially survivors of domestic violence.
They tried to rectify their image by partnering with a local organization, Peace Over Violence, that is dedicated “to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence.” This was done as part of “New Off-Ice Conduct Awareness Training Initiatives” undertaken before the 2015-16 season. This was announced less than a week after Voynov’s statement that he was leaving the country. Since then, it’s difficult to tell how seriously they have continued to take the issue of domestic violence, given the lack of public signs. This would be a public sign, one way or the other.
For now, we will keep an eye on any further developments. Here’s hoping the only one is the Kings saying, “No.”