Getty Images

Slava Voynov appeals suspension for 2019-20 season

5 Comments

NEW YORK (AP) — Slava Voynov is appealing the suspension imposed by the NHL after it determined he committed acts of domestic violence.

Jonathan Weatherdon, a spokesman for the NHL Players’ Association, said Wednesday that the organization had filed an appeal on behalf of Voynov. Players have the right to appeal suspensions to a neutral arbitrator, though a hearing date has not yet been set.

Commissioner Gary Bettman suspended Voynov on Tuesday for the 2019-20 season and 2020 playoffs for what the league called unacceptable off-ice conduct. The 29-year-old Russian could have his eligibility restored on July 1, 2020, based on good behavior.

Voynov was suspended indefinitely in October 2014 after being arrested and accused of abusing his wife. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor, left the United States to go back to Russia and in July had the conviction dismissed by a judge in Los Angeles. He has applied to be reinstated by the NHL.

The NHL conducted an investigation and held a hearing March 21 under the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement regarding the Oct. 19, 2014, incident involving Voynov and his wife. Bettman said he determined after that investigation and hearing that Voynov engaged in acts of domestic violence.

Nashville forward Austin Watson was suspended 27 games in September for unacceptable off-ice conduct following an investigation and hearing after he pleaded no contest in July to a charge of domestic assault stemming from an incident in June. Arbitrator Shyam Das reduced the suspension to 18 games on appeal.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

NHL suspends Slava Voynov through 2019-20 season

Getty Images
4 Comments

The NHL suspended former Kings defenseman Slava Voynov through the 2019-20 season (both the regular season and playoffs) for “unacceptable off-ice conduct.” However, the league also revealed that “Voynov’s eligibility to play in the NHL will be restored (assuming good behavior) no later than July 1, 2020.”

That “unacceptable off-ice conduct” stems from Voynov’s domestic assault arrest in October 2014, which prompted an indefinite suspension at the time. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman described “acts of domestic violence directed at [Voynov’s] wife,” Marta Varlamova, in the league’s statement.

“I have determined that Player Slava Voynov engaged in acts of domestic violence directed at his wife,” Bettman wrote. “Today’s ruling, while tailored to the specific facts of this case and the individuals involved, is necessary and consistent with the NHL’s strongly-held policy that it cannot and will not tolerate this and similar types of conduct, particularly as directed at a spouse, domestic partner or family member.”

The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman reached out to the NHLPA regarding a possible appeal on the decision, with the union responding that they’re “reviewing the decision.” The Kings, who own Voynov’s NHL rights, provided a similar statement, via Dillman:

Voynov, 29, would be 30 at the time of his potential July 2020 reinstatement. Voynov last played six games for the Kings in 2014-15. While the Kings stood by the league when it came to suspending Voynov, they also handled the situation in questionable ways. That included strange salary cap-related comments from then-GM Dean Lombardi, and allowing him to skate with teammates. The latter action prompted the league to fine the Kings $100K for breaking the terms of Voynov’s suspension.

After leaving the U.S. while facing possible deportation related to his domestic assault charges, Voynov spent the 2015-16 through 2017-18 seasons with St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL. Voynov won a gold medal with Russia during the 2018 Winter Olympics, and had hoped to return to the NHL during the 2018-19 season. Voynov was photographed with Vladimir Putin after winning that gold medal:

voynovputin
via Getty Images

Voynov applied for reinstatement back in November 2018, prompting what the league deemed “a fairly comprehensive investigation.”

As The Athletic’s Katie Strang detailed in June 2018, any potential suitor for Voynov would be wise to consider some of the graphic, disturbing details of the incident. Police reports indicated that Voynov “punched, kicked, and choked” his wife, while Strang’s account including additional disturbing details.

(Consider this a content warning, as this information can be graphic.)

Court documents detail how the fight continued when the two arrived home and the contents are equally grim. In one motion, filed on behalf of the District Attorney’s office, it states that Voynov “wrapped both of his hands around Ms. Varlamova’s neck and began to squeeze, making it difficult for her to breathe.” Voynov, according to the motion, “continued to choke her while repeatedly pushing her to the floor of the bedroom,” telling her to “get out,” that there would be “no more money for her,” and that she would be “gone.”

These clubs should also know that Varlamova’s seven-year-old daughter was reportedly at home at the time of the incident, and apparently, it did not end there.

PHT will monitor this situation for updates, which might see a decision from the NHLPA regarding an appeal.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Report: NHL, NHLPA agree not to change playoff format

14 Comments

The NHL’s current playoff format is reportedly sticking around, at least for one more season.

According to a report from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to extend the format, as well as the current divisional alignment, for one more year. Even though it will continue to be a talking point, the earliest possible change to the format will not be until the 2020-21 season, if one even happens.

The NHL has used the current divisional format since the 2013-14 season.

It is set up so the top-three teams in each division are automatically in the playoffs, while the remaining two spots in each conference are Wild Card teams. The division winners play the Wild Card teams in Round 1, while the second and third place teams face each other.

It is a format designed to create and focus on rivalries, which it absolutely does and has given us some amazing early round matchups in recent years.

Critics of the format, however, don’t like that it can often times guarantee that a top-team in the league gets eliminated in the first-or second-round depending on the strength of the division the play in.

Last year, for example, Nashville and Winnipeg, the teams with the two best records in the league, ended up meeting in Round 2. It was a similar story the year before when Pittsburgh and Washington met in the second round.

This year, Boston and Toronto (the third and fifth best records at the moment) are slated to meet in Round 1, with the winner possibly having to play Tampa Bay (the best team in the league) in round two if it wins its first round series.

Lightning forward Steven Stamkos was one of the players that recently questioned the format.

“It is what it is,” said Stamkos, via TSN. “It has been that way for a while now. You’re going to have to beat the best teams to win anyways whether it’s the first round or the conference finals. I understand where they’re coming from from a marketing perspective, wanting to get some rivalries early on, but I think from a perspective of what you’re grinding 82 games for during a season is to finish as high as you can so you can have that advantage come playoffs.”

“I don’t think that’s an advantage to Toronto or Boston to be, what could be the top three teams in the whole league from one division, and then to have to play that team in the first round. I don’t think that’s right, and saying that you saw what [Pittsburgh] and [Washington] had to deal with for the last couple years. It is what it is. You can’t change it now, but I don’t think it’s the most fair in terms of why you play and the advantage you’re supposed to have come playoff time.”

It might not be ideal to have a top team go out early, but there are some fantastic possibilities for Round 1 matchups this season (Boston-Toronto is a given, as is San Jose-Vegas, and both should be amazing; Nashville-Winnipeg is also possibility) that are going to be incredible to watch.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

McDavid, Marchand, Gritty top 2019 NHLPA Player Poll

2 Comments

The annual NHLPA Player Poll has been released and there are very few surprises from the results. Over 500 players took part in the 20-question poll answering questions ranging from best forward to best shot to biggest trash talker to best mascot to best hair. The poll was conducted during the Players’ Association’s annual team meetings, which took place between late September 2018 and early January 2019.

You won’t be shocked to read that the players are big fans of both Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. The Edmonton Oilers captain was voted “Best Forward” (63.6 percent), “Most Difficult to Play Against” (30.9 percent), and “Player You Would Select to Start a Franchise With” (60 percent). The Pittsburgh Penguins captain was the runner up in all three of those categories.

Reigning Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman was named “Best Defenseman” (31.7 percent) and Carey Price was given the title of “Best Goalie” (29.9 percent).

In some off-beat categories, Brad Marchand was a double winner. The Boston Bruins pest was voted “Biggest Trash Talker” (21.3 percent) and “Worst Trash Talker” (12.5 percent) by his peers.

Marchand was honored by his victories:

Gritty, as you’d expect, was voted “Best Mascot” (69.4 percent), Hilary Knight (27.6 percent) topped Marie-Philip Poulin (24.1 percent) as the “Best Current Female Player,” and Erik Karlsson (18.4 percent) was given the honor of “Best Hair,” beating out long-time champion Henrik Lundqvist (6.6 percent).

Check out the NHLPA site to see who the players believe is most underrated, who would make the best general manager after retirement, the funniest player, NHL arena with the best ice, and more.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Predators’ Watson reinstated after indefinite suspension

Getty Images
1 Comment

Austin Watson has been reinstated by the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, a joint statement from both the league and the players’ union said on Monday.

Watson entered the program on Jan. 29 when the NHL announced that he would be suspended indefinitely until cleared for on-ice competition by the program’s administrators.

Last September, Watson was suspended 27 games for unacceptable off-ice conduct after he pleaded no contest to domestic assault charges stemming from an incident at a gas station in Franklin, Tenn.

That suspension was later reduced to 18 games upon and appeal by the NHLPA and Watson returned to the lineup on Nov. 15. He’d go on to play 34 games before entering Stage 2 of the SABH for “treatment related exclusively to his ongoing issues with alcohol abuse.

Jenn Guardino, the girlfriend of Watson, later came out and said that the 27-year-old forward had not abused her.

“Consistent with the recommendations of the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been returned to available status and has entered the follow-up care phase of the program,” a statement from the Predators said on Monday. “Because of the personal nature and the steps outlined in the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, and our extensive focus on Austin and his family’s well-being, there will be no further comment on this matter.”

The Predators sit second in the Central Division, one point behind the Winnipeg Jets with nine games remaining in the regular season.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck