Let's get something straight. NHL players are the best of the best on the ice. Off the ice? We're reading a lot about that these days. Well, mostly we're reading a lot about how one player allegedly beat his wife to the point that their bedroom was covered in blood, repeatedly shoved her down and kicked her as she lie on the ground, and then tried to strangle her three times according to the testimony of the responding police officer. But let's be clear, these horrific alleged actions are those of an outlier, one alleged criminal among more than 700 active players.
The vast majority of NHL players are good people. They are men with families who love their wives and their kids. They have human failings, just like the rest of us, and life on the road takes a toll. Martin Biron summed it up well when he reflected on his career following retirement, "[W]hen you're 27, 28 and you miss Halloween with the kids because you have a game, that doesn't feel the same as when you're 35 and you miss Halloween with the kids."
While the allegations against Voynov are undeniably disturbing, the public reaction by the LA Kings is making things worse—way, way worse at a time when the NHL is struggling to find its way with female fans. It's almost as though the Kings have coordinated a response that attempts to trivialize Voynov's alleged bludgeoning of his wife. First came GM Dean Lombardi's patently absurd public comment on Voynov's case and resulting suspension (with pay): "Quite frankly, I'm beyond caring about reinstatement or cap relief," Lombardi said. "My biggest concern is that if he is charged with a felony, this one incident could jeopardize Slava's entire career."
Did Dean Lombardi really say that holding Voynov accountable for his alleged crime would somehow be unfair because he might have to give up a career in hockey? Talk about a lack of perspective. Voynov is facing nine years in prison and deportation if convicted.
Then, on December 2, after the District Attorney charged Voynov with one felony count of corporal injury to spouse with great bodily injury, the Kings included Voynov in an "optional skate" because Dean Lombardi "thought it'd be good for Voynov to be around his teammates again," apparently not considering whether it would be good for the Kings to invite Voynov to violate the terms of his NHL suspension which prohibits him "from participating in team activities (practices and other mandatory or optional team functions)." The NHL promptly fined the Kings $100,000 for the violation.
Notably absent from the Kings is any statement acknowledging that the gravity of the charges against Voynov and disturbing nature of the graphic evidence presented at the preliminary hearing. It's just not that difficult for the Kings to issue a statement like, "The felony assault charges against Slava are serious, and while we wait for the legal process to reach its conclusion, we will abide by the terms of his suspension. Domestic violence is never acceptable. Never."
At Voynov's preliminary hearing on December 15, 2014, the District Attorney presented sufficient evidence for Judge Hector Guzman to order Voynov to stand trial on the felony charge of corporal injury to spouse with great bodily injury. Voynov's motions to dismiss the charge and to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor were both denied. Voynov is represented by attorney Pamela Robillard Mackey who famously represented Kobe Bryant in his Colorado rape trial that ended in an acquittal. Voynov's arraignment is set for December 29.