With the Ray Rice situation still fresh in everyone’s mind, domestic violence became a major story in the NHL this year following the arrest of L.A. Kings defenseman Slava Voynov.
Voynov, arrested on Oct. 20 on domestic violence charges, was immediately suspended indefinitely — a move the league admitted was partly due to the Rice incident, in which the NFL originally gave the Baltimore running back just a two-game ban for striking his wife.
“I think the landscape has changed for all of us over the past six months,” Daly wrote in an email to The Hockey News, roughly one month after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he “didn’t get it right” with his original ruling (on Sept. 8, Goodell upped the punishment and suspended Rice indefinitely.)
The NHL didn’t make the same missteps with Voynov.
“We felt it was a fairly easy decision,” Daly told the NHL Network about the indefinite suspension. “‘[There was] no choice but to suspend the player and go through the process of trying to get to the bottom of exactly what happened and, obviously, handle it appropriately from there.”
Not everyone was pleased with the NHL’s actions, though. Voynov’s lawyer said his clients’ rights were being infringed upon and would look to have the suspension lifted. Kings GM Dean Lombardi was upset with the salary cap ramifications, calling the system “dysfunctional” before wondering if teams needed a “cushion” in case one of their players turned out to be a “bank robber, kleptomaniac.”
The league would eventually grant Los Angeles relief of Voynov’s $4.16 million cap hit.
If that decision led to doubts over the NHL’s resolve in this matter, they were laid to rest in early December. Prior to a game against Boston, the Kings allowed Voynov to participate in one of their pregame skates — a violation of his suspension — and the NHL pnce again responded quickly and with purpose, fining the club $100,000 just hours after Voynov left the ice.
“I think it spoke for itself,” Daly said of the fine, per the Washington Post. “There were very clear parameters with respect to what was permissible or not under the terms of the suspension, and those parameters were violated today.”
On Dec. 15, light was possibly shed onto why the NHL originally ruled the way it did. During Voynov’s preliminary hearing, a Redondo Beach police officer gave graphic testimony about the alleged domestic assault, testifying that Voynov’s wife said she was struck in the face, pushed to the ground and kicked repeatedly.
The officer also testified that Voynov’s wife had “bruising, red marks, scratches” on her neck, and was given eight stitches to close a three centimeter cut above her right eye.
Voynov’s case was one of the biggest stories of 2014, and could be equally large next year as well. He will be re-arraigned on Dec. 29 and, per the OC Register’s Rich Hammond, could go to trial sometime in March.