Opinion: You Can Do Better, NHL

Opinion: You Can Do Better, NHL

Several NHL teams have reportedly shown interest in suspended player Slava Voynov.

The Athletic’s Katie Strang has noted a few of the roadblocks the Russian hockey player faces—including immigration issues and his suspension—but there is one that should have already stopped the considering teams dead in their tracks: the horrifying domestic assault against his wife.

In October of 2014, Voynov was arrested, spent almost two months in jail and was suspended from the NHL for a violent altercation with his wife after a Halloween party.

Police testimony in December 2014 revealed that Voynov “kicked, choked and punched” his wife, according Los Angeles Times reporter Nathan Fenno from inside the courtroom. Neighbors called the police after hearing almost 20 minutes of his wife screaming and begging for help, where they arrived to find a gruesome scene, and the couple’s young daughter in another room of the house.

“‘There’s bruising, red marks, scratches on the victim’s neck,'” Fenno reported from a police officer’s testimony.

Voynov was suspended by the NHL immediately following his arrest and although the suspension has not been lifted, the NHL reportedly met with Voynov and his agent last month to discuss the possibility of allowing him to return. The Los Angeles Kings, who Voynov was under contract with, allowed him to skate with the team in December 2014, which they received a $100,000 fine for due to his suspension.

“Voynov’s wife had laceration over left eye, blood streaming, red marks on neck…Voynov’s wife required eight stitches to close wound above left eye,” Fenno said. But the Kings allowed him to spend time with the team anyway.

The Kings terminated Voynov’s contract following the conviction but retained his rights and said recently that they would consider taking him back.

“Voynov pushed wife to ground multiple times, kicked her repeatedly while on ground, [choked] her three times,” but the Kings will consider taking him back.

“At Voynov’s home, the officer noted blood all over bedroom, including covering [a] comforter and a bloody handprint on floor,” but several NHL teams are considering meeting with and signing him.

The NHL can do better. They can refuse to let him back in the league. They don’t have to be like so many other professional sports leagues that allow domestic abusers to earn a living within their organization.

They can send a message to American leagues like the NFL, which has some of the softest domestic assault rules in the world; and to the Olympic committee, who didn’t allow Russian athletes that used performance enhancing drugs to compete, but allowed Voynov to do so, that they stand for more than the money those players bring in.

They can tell fans, athletes, leagues and the world that being a professional athlete won’t get off the hook after hurting people.

This conversation shouldn’t be about Voynov as a player; it should not include how many years he spent in the league or how many goals he scored and it shouldn’t even be about Voynov as a person—it should be about the teams that are considering paying him millions of dollars when they know the details of his history. This conversation should be about the league that is considering not only allowing him, but potentially helping him return.

This conversation should start and end with this: You can do better, NHL.


Featured Image via: Flickr/CaliShooterOne

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