LA Kings support NHL suspension of Slava Voynov but unclear on fallout
Since the NHL broke the news that it had suspended Kings defenseman Slava Voynov indefinitely after an arrest on suspicion of domestic violence (Voynov has reportedly yet to be charged), both the league and the Kings have shown a united front in support of the action.
While deputy commissioner Bill Daly had been active in defending the NHL's actions in this case, the Kings have been mainly silent with the exception of a statement by the team.
That ended Tuesday with general manager Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter chatting with reporters at the team's practice facility in El Segundo, Calif.
What we learned was that Sutter went to Voynov's house Tuesday, and both he and Lombardi support the NHL's decision. From Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register when Sutter was asked if he agreed with the NHL: "Absolutely," Sutter said. "It’s very appropriate."
From Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider, Sutter on whether the Kings might be distracted by the Voynov arrest:
"We’re pretty close as a team. It’s not just ‘team,’ it’s more of a family thing. We deal with distractions all the time. We’ve been able to handle a lot of adversity and pressure for three years now. [Reporter: Is this in any way different because it’s a legal matter, as far as a distraction goes?] I guess ‘yes,’ because we don’t really have anything to talk about. It’s a legal process, and we’ll let that play out."
Rosen also has a long transcript of GM Dean Lombardi's chat about Voynov, who said times have changed when it comes to players' status after being arrested.
"The old system was play until the criminal system does its thing. Well, that ain’t the case. So now what do you do with all this grey that’s out there, particularly again now in a cap era where it’s not so easy to recall players and deal with things?" he said.
From Lombardi, who has a law degree from Tulane, via Rosen:
"I think it’s safe to say even the appearance of impropriety, now we know the ramifications of it. So just being here right now, that when you’re a professional athlete, when things go good, you can be up here and they make video games of you. When things go bad, it’s a heightened standard here. So, again, without indicting anybody, I think that’s a lesson that probably constantly needs to be reinforced, but I think it’s really brought home right now from a personal standpoint, to a friend, a teammate, and also, you know what? This is the kind of stuff that in the old days, they used to sweep it under the rug. Baseball’s had this problem – how long have they had it? Darryl Strawberry. Albert Belle. Jose Canseco. Go right down the thing, [and it’s swept] right under the rug. Well, it ain’t happening that way anymore, boys. And even when you’re not guilty…and so again, that’s why it’s dangerous saying that, because you’re assuming I think he’s guilty. But we’ve always said that a public figure is held to a higher standard, and it’s even the appearance of impropriety."
In Hammond's story, Lombardi notes that he was going to have a conference call with the NHL later in the day, so currently it's not entirely clear where everything stands between the league, Kings and Voynov.
In the last 24-plus hours there have been comparisons to how the NHL handled the Semyon Varlamov case last year, when the Colorado goaltender was arrested on domestic assault charges, but was not suspended by neither the NHL nor the Avalanche.
It has been surmised that the NFL's recent poor handlings of domestic violence has changed the landscape in sports on these issues.
And there's still a hockey component to this matter. The Kings play the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday at Staples Center. As Hammond notes, Los Angeles has five healthy defenseman, though Jake Muzzin could return.
There are still lots of twists and turns to this story that is far from over.