A couple of weeks before Halloween, the Los Angeles Kings had just barely begun defense of their latest title when details slowly emerged about the arrest of Slava Voynov. A gross series of missteps by the Kings with some pretty words followed with the defenseman eventually choosing to self-deport and avoid a trial. The LA hockey club never pursued any further action to bring back their once-star defender, despite the rumors and despite holding his NHL rights.
According to Russian news outlet Business Online, the Kings are not interested in adding Voynov back into the mix. Locria Fox (@VulpineVanguard), writer for The Ice Garden who closely follows the KHL and the Russian women's league, provided a rough translation:
Defender Vyacheslav Voynov is not going to extend his contract with SKA, which is expiring after the season, “Business Online” reports.
Five NHL clubs have made it clear that they are interested in Voynov: Florida, Montreal, Islanders, Rangers, and Winnipeg. The player’s former club, Los Angeles, is not interested in a return for the Russian player.
Recall that the Russian national was disqualified from the North American league for battery towards his wife; after this, he left the USA. Before he has permission to return to the NHL’s side, Voynov needs to register for an American visa and permission to work.
(The emphasis is mine in the above quote.)
Dean Lombardi made a lot of mistakes when it came to handling Voynov. He allowed him to practice with the team and didn’t seem to have any regard for the very serious allegation at hand.
Per Cap Friendly, Voynov would’ve had one final year left on his six-year contract extension, but his contract was terminated on Sep 17, 2015. [Editor’s note: The Kings do still own his rights.]
Is it worth discussing given all of the hurdles that Voynov would need to clear in order to return to the United States? I think it is. Social media sites have been abuzz with the announcement that Voynov wanted to come back to the NHL. The fans who are thrilled with this news see no harm. After all, they demand, when is enough, enough? When has a man been punished enough?
Voynov spent two months in a local jail while awaiting the results of the impending investigation before deciding to leave and avoid the mess of the justice system. After that, the Kings put window dressing on their errors and called it a day. Since September 2015, there hasn’t been any word about their partnership with local domestic abuse organization Peace Over Violence. This article is the final word about it as people have quietly continued on with their lives and sort of forgotten about the terrible event that occurred that October evening. [Editor’s note, 10:05 PM: The Kings’ partnership with Peace Over Violence is still active, and they remain listed as a Community Partner on the Los Angeles Kings’ website. As per the website: “Kings Care Foundation sponsors the Youth Leadership Program, a summer program for teenagers, that was developed to assist in breaking the cycle of violence. Participants learn how to become leaders in their community and build healthy relationships free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence.”]
Unfortunately, there are victims every day who don’t have the privilege to continue on with their lives. If the Kings did decide to bring Voynov back, they’ll lose a lot of fans. This isn’t about “punishing” a man who made a “mistake.” This is literally about a moral responsibility to say that the organization will not tolerate players who beat their spouses. America has a problem with celebrating and accepting athletes who are accused of domestic abuse but also think that protesting racism is controversial. This is most prevalent in the NFL where Colin Kaepernick can’t get a job, but 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster is welcomed back with open arms, despite three felony charges for beating his girlfriend.
Sports culture in America is in need of a serious overhaul. It shouldn’t be acceptable to physically harm your partner/spouse/significant other and be able to return to work the next day as if nothing happened. There is no perfect solution when it comes to handling these situations. Very often, the victims are heavily dependent on their abusers and have no way to escape their situations. Victims are frequently socially, emotionally, and physically isolated from friends and family. However, not praising their abusers is at least a start and better than nothing. By doing nothing, we are implicitly accepting that violence against another person is acceptable if you’re good enough at sports.
Here's hoping that Rob Blake doesn't follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. The NHL would be wise to prevent any of its teams from signing Voynov, as well.
[UPDATE, 11:20 AM: We are starting to hear from media connected to the five teams mentioned in the report above. Since the report was an isolated, translated one, any additional information is going to be relevant and useful for gauging the accuracy of this report. We will add these responses below.]
Cannot confirm other report out of KHL on #Isles interest in Slava Voynov, which (for obvious reasons) would be an unpopular choice. Seems #Isles are kicking lots of tires overseas; may be initial contact that goes no further. Many obstacles remain for a Voynov return to the NHL.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) April 23, 2018
Regarding the report out of Russia: There is no evidence that the Rangers have any interest in acquiring Slava Voynov. (And as personal aside: I would certainly hope not.)— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) April 23, 2018
[UPDATE, 3:20 PM]
Now I can confirm: #Isles have not reached out to anyone connected to Slavs Voynov. Zero interest.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) April 23, 2018
On this, the Winnipeg Jets have told me they have NOT had ANY contact with representatives of Slava Voynov regarding a return to the NHL— Salim Nadim Valji (@salimvalji) April 23, 2018