By Savannah Malnar
When defenseman Slava Voynov of the Los Angeles Kings was initially arrested on domestic violence charges and suspended indefinitely by the NHL in late October, the media didn’t have a lot of information on the case. Voynov and his wife both claimed it was an “accident,” but the case still went to court.
Fast forward roughly two months to Voynov’s preliminary hearing on Monday. In this hearing, what at first seemed like a possible misunderstanding became much worse. A police officer offered his testimony to the case; apparently, Voynov had pushed his wife to the ground multiple times, kicked her, choked her multiple times, and pushed her into a television which caused a gash above her eye requiring stitches.
Pretty bad, right? The people in the sport media largely agree. Big names such as Yahoo! Sports and the Bleacher Report say it like it is, calling the incident “shocking,” “bloody,” and “horrifying.” An article in the Bleacher Report praised the NHL for its initial suspension, along with its decision to fine the LA Kings $100,000 when they violated suspension protocol and allowed the defenseman to take part in a practice with the team. The NHL’s lack of toleration for both the suspected domestic violence and violation of suspension protocol shows their dedication to ensuring a high standard of how the players act off the ice. This reflects good on the league in comparison to the NFL’s mishandling of the Ray Rice case.
While the large national media outlets highlighted the moral aspect of Voynov’s case and suspension, a more local source, the LA Times, stayed completely objective on that front. In comparison to the headlines “NHL’s Hard Line with Slava Voynov Remains Justified as Horrible Details Emerge” (Bleacher Report) and “Slava Voynov kicked, choked, bloodied wife according to police” (Yahoo! Sports), the LA Times headline was simply “Domestic violence case against Slava Voynov will proceed, judge rules.” This is an extremely stark difference and reflects the habits of local sources tending to be less critical of athletes in these sorts of situations.
With domestic abuse becoming a hot topic in the sports world, both the league itself and the hockey media must be sensitive to the broad audience that the sport invites. Even with the LA Times remaining objective, the media and the NHL have done a good job so far showing this sort of behavior by a player is unacceptable and disappointing.