Domestic Abuse in the NHL

By Savannah Malnar

Domestic abuse is a serious issue that has lately become a hot topic in professional sports, namely the NFL. Unfortunately cases can be found in multiple sports, most recently in the NHL. Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the NHL due to him being arrested for domestic violence charges.

While the NFL has now made very strict and specific rules regarding domestic abuse (the player gets suspended for 6 games for his first violation, and the player gets a lifetime ban for a repeat offense), the NHL has no such regulations. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is aware of the new enforcements in the NFL, but does not believe any need to be implemented in the NHL due to their work in implementing educational courses and counseling for the athletes.

The case is being compared by the media to the domestic violence case against Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche goaltender. Varlamov was charged with abusing his girlfriend during the 2013-2014 season, but continued to play with the Avalanche and suffered no discipline from the league. The charges were later dropped due to “reasonable doubt.”

With the new attention being given to these cases, the media is questioning how the NHL handled Varlomov’s case last season. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News says about that case, “…the league kept its distance from the situation.” They seem to have a different attitude towards the Voynov case.

The sport media is asking the big question, “Why is this case different?”

The most obvious answer is that the climate regarding domestic abuse cases regarding athletes has drastically changed since the Ray Rice incident and the NFL’s failure to correctly respond. The NHL does not want to risk making a similar mistake; and the suspension is justified through the recently re-negotiated CBA which allows the league to suspend a player who is subject to a criminal investigation.

While the sport media has been covering this story as thoroughly as possible, the NHL themselves has only released one short statement regarding the situation, including a quote from the Kings organization regarding how concerning this event is to the team.

As this situation progresses, the NHL should act proactively to keep fans and other players updated to ensure that they are fully informed through a reliable source.