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NHL Takes A Step Forward With Voynov Suspension

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Everyone watched as the NFL tried to cover up a domestic abuse case. The NHL was watching too, and they seem to have learned acting quickly is better than sweeping things under the rug and waiting for the case to play out.

Bruce Bennett

On Monday morning, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested on charges of domestic abuse and released on bail later in the day. The NHL took swift action announcing his suspension before other media outlets, such as TMZ, picked up and reported the charges.

Athlete arrests and mugshots are glorified on TMZ sports and throughout sports media in general. If an athlete is arrested, the first thing people want to see is the mugshot, then they want to know how bad the charge was. Any arrest - in the eyes of any league, company, or enterprise - should be unacceptable conduct.

The NHL was on top of this arrest unlike the way they handed the arrest for third-degree assault against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov last winter. The NHL remained separated from the investigation and did not impose a suspension on Varlamov. As the charges were eventually dismissed, the NHL didn't waiver on their position to stay far away even when then-girlfriend Evgeniya Vavrinyuk recalled all the times Varlamov beat her.

They remained out of the picture, refusing to be affiliated with the delicate situation playing out. The funny thing is that they were always affiliated. The decision to stay away reflected on commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Vavrinyuk's tearful interview was taken as a plea for a green card by many Russian teammates of Varlamov. Not a call for help at the very least.

While the NHL slid under the radar with a testimony from Vavrinyuk and a third-degree assault case dismissed, just a month later Janay Rice would be violated and abused on tape. Her now-husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, committed the brutal assault.

The video that showed Janay unconsciousm being dragged out of a Vegas hotel elevator by Ray was not enough proof for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend the running back indefinitely. A video, the NFL reportedly chose to ignore, showing the traumatizing events that led to Janay falling unconscious were disturbing to say the least. It was that video that induced the indefinite suspension after it went viral.

Not only was the "Let's sweep this under the rug so one of our star running backs can continue playing" method of dealing with domestic violence an embarrassment, it showed a lack of respect for women and any victim of abuse. Goodell's job came into question and all he had to do was lay low until the season was well under way.

I've already touched on the treatment of women in sports media, specifically the NHL. But, it's another issue for widespread media to pick up on these issues before the leagues themselves figure out what their next move is. There was lack of respect for Janay in particular as a human when TV outlets ran the video on loop and newspapers put the still image of the abuse on their front pages. More than an absence of leadership, there was a shortage of moral obligation to try and right a wrong committed by one player.

The NHL didn't want to deal with such a PR nightmare. The players they employ and their actions directly affect the reputation of the league and those affiliated with it. There's no running from a domestic violence case after the NFL handled Rice's abuse of his wife with an atrocious disregard for human rights. Their action to get ahead of Voynov's situation shows a decent amount of progression less than a year after Varlamov's case.

Daly mentioned the circumstances of Varlamov's case were different than Voynov's, but were those circumstances the fear of evidence being leaked to the public? Suspending Voynov indefinitely is going to hurt one of the NHL's best teams, but it's the only call to make.

The NHL needs not only the other players in the league but the coaches and general managers to support suspensions of any player. The only way millionaire athletes are deterred from domestic violence, substance abuse, and other charges is to set an example that none of it will be tolerated within the league. Discipline is already an issue as superstars get off with lesser suspensions due to in-game offenses. There is no room for favouritism when it comes to domestic violence, or any other illegal activity.

The Kings lose a talented defenseman and are down to six while being up against the cap. That's a problem they'll have to deal with as any other team would. Their player made a choice to violate someone else's human rights and was rightfully arrested for his actions. There's no room for leniency on this issue; he has to be suspended.