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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has answered many questions about his friend Roger Goodell recently. About how the NFL bungled its domestic violence cases, and lost the faith of many fans. About the public relations nightmare that arrives when a league’s leader doesn’t lead.
Each time, Bettman talks about the protocols in place already in the NHL for issues of domestic violence, but has also assured the media and fans that the NHL isn’t going to have a Ray Rice situation on its hands.
"Our code of conduct is we expect you to do the right things and if you don't we hold you accountable. More important than that is I believe you need to be proactive," said Bettman in Toronto last month.
Here’s your pro-action: The NHL announced on Monday morning that Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has been arrested on charges of domestic violence, and has been suspended indefinitely pending a League investigation.
Voynov was reportedly arrested on Monday morning on domestic violence charges – the NHL broke the news before any outlet in Los Angeles or TMZ did. From the League:
The suspension was imposed under Section 18-A.5 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which provides that, during the pendency of a criminal investigation, “The League may suspend the Player 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.”
Voynov, who will continue to be paid during the pendency of the investigation, was arrested for California Penal Code section 273.5, Domestic Violence.
Voynov is the second NHL player arrested in just over a year for domestic violence, and the contrast between the NHL’s reaction then and now is rather stark.
On Oct. 30, 2013, Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov turned himself into police on second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault charges, following an incident involving his girlfriend. The charges were dropped by the district attorney two months later, citing “reasonable doubt.”
During that time, he was not suspended by the Avalanche nor the NHL, helping to back-stop Colorado to an 112-point season and the best numbers of his career.
Said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly at the time, via Pierre LeBrun:
"At this point, we are monitoring the developing legal situation and do not intend to intervene in that process. There may come a point in time where we feel it is either necessary or appropriate to take a different approach, but that's not where we are right now. We are and will remain in close contact with the Club, and will see how the underlying facts unfold."
That was before Ray Rice, elevator videos and commissioners made to look like vapid buffoons in press conferences.
"That's something we've been doing with the Players' Association for more than a decade. We as a league have more than enough authority and mechanisms to punish, if necessary, in the appropriate case. Fortunately we haven't seen too many. But more importantly we focus on counseling and education, and in the joint programs we have with the Players' Association we've been counseling and educating on domestic violence for more than a decade, I don't remember the exact date. The security department does it in their annual meetings with each team, and the behavioral counselors from the substance abuse, behavioral health program also counsel and educate the players on those and many other issues. So I'm not sure for us there is any need for any code of conduct other than our players, who overwhelming conduct themselves magnificently off the ice -- we deal with it on a case by case basis. I don't think we need to formalize anything more. Our players know what's right and wrong, and as I said, we have the mechanisms in place to hopefully not get to that point."
Voynov could end up like Varlamov, and have these charges eventually dropped. And the NHL could look draconian and hair-trigger in its response, in hindsight.
But in 2014, in professional sports, on a domestic violence arrest … this is the only way to respond.
The woman who was allegedly attacked by L.A. Kings star Slava Voynov was injured so badly, she was rushed to the hospital ... where staffers called the cops on Voynov ...TMZ Sports has learned. Law enforcement tells us ...
Voynov was actually arrested at the hospital in Torrance, CA around 1 AM Monday morning on suspicion of domestic violence. We're told Voynov had accompanied the woman to the hospital -- and shortly after they arrived, hospital staffers called authorities to report Voynov as the person suspected of attacking the woman.
Our sources tell us the woman claims she was in a relationship with Voynov. Voynov was hauled to a nearby jail -- where he was eventually released on $50k bail.
More as it develops.