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Kings’ Slava Voynov suspended indefinitely after domestic violence arrest

Kings defenseman Slava Voynov is suspended indefinitely following his arrest on domestic violence charges.Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images Kings defenseman Slava Voynov is suspended indefinitely following his arrest on domestic violence charges.

The NHL has suspended Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov indefinitely from all club activities pending a formal league investigation of an arrest this morning on charges of domestic violence, the NHL announced Monday morning.

Monday’s swift action contrasts starkly with the league’s decision last season to allow Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov to play while facing domestic violence charges that were eventually dismissed. However, Voynov’s arrest occurs in the wake of the NFL’s recent mishandling of several domestic violence cases involving star players such as running backs Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

Plus, there are early indications that Voynov’s situation is more severe than Varlamov’s.

“I think the landscape has changed for all of us over the past six months,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Hockey News in an email on Monday morning. “But that’s not the only reason for the difference in treatment. Circumstances were different in Varlamov. I can’t get more specific than that.”

Those circumstances, according to a report by TMZ.com, are that Voynov was arrested at a hospital in Torrance, Calif., early Monday morning where he was accompanying a woman injured so badly that hospital staffers called the police on Voynov. TMZ.com said a source said the woman claimed she was in a relationship with Voynov.

The Orange County Register reported that Voynov was arrested at 12:45 a.m. by Redondo Beach police, that he was released from jail at approximately 9 a.m. on $ 50,000 bail, and that his next court date is set for Dec. 1.

In its statement, the NHL said Voynov had been charged under California Penal Code section 273.5, Domestic Violence. If it is charged as a felony, Voynov could be sentenced to up to four years in prison, with an additional five years possible if great bodily injury has been inflicted, according to the California penal code.

The NHL does not have a domestic violence policy, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Daily News in September that the league “handle(s) situations like this on a case-by-case basis.” With that premise, the league dropped the hammer under Section 18-A.5 of the collective bargaining agreement, which provides that during the pendency of a criminal investigation:

“The league may suspend the player pending the league’s formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the league.”

The clause is part of a CBA section that was clarified and updated during the NHL’s and NHLPA’s bargaining negotiations on their current agreement in 2012 and early 2013. The section governs “commissioner discipline for off-ice conduct,” and it includes a defined process for the league and the players’ association working collaboratively as investigations or hearings take place.

The NHL notifies the NHLPA immediately upon deciding to undertake an investigation that may result in discipline. The player, in this case Voynov, has the right to appeal his discipline, though Voynov had not done so as of Monday afternoon. And the NHL must alert the NHLPA of any hearings or interviews it intends to conduct, while also affording the players’ association a reasonable opportunity to participate.

The NHL said Voynov will continue to be paid during the pendency of the investigation. Voynov’s attorney, Craig Renetzky, told the Register: “We’re conducting our own investigation. We don’t have anything to comment on quite yet. There should be no rush to judgment, and we’ll see what we find out. They have not filed charges. There has been an arrest but we’re still early in the game. We’re pretty darn far from conviction.”

However, the Los Angeles Kings also released a statement firmly backing the NHL’s actions:

“These developments are of great concern to our organization,” the Kings statement read. “We support the NHL’s decision to suspend Slava Voynov indefinitely during this process, and we will continue to take appropriate action as the legal proceedings and the investigiation by the NHL take their course.”

The NHL never has taken disrespect of women lightly. In 2008, the league suspended Sean Avery six games in 2008 while with the Dallas Stars for speaking inappropriately about actress Elisha Cuthbert, who he called his “sloppy seconds.”

More recently, Varlamov of the Avalanche was charged in the fall of 2013 on one count of third-degree assault for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend. When he was charged, the NHL and the Avalanche essentially announced that they reserved the right to act if the allegations were proven as fact.

“We are aware of the decision made by the Denver District Attorney’s Office today to pursue misdemeanor assault charges against Avalanche Player Semyon Varlamov,” the NHL said in a statement at the time. “While we will continue to monitor the situation, we do not expect to take any action or have any further comment pending the resolution of those charges.”

The NHL and Avalanche came under scrutiny for allowing Varlamov to play while the case played out in court. The charges against Varlamov eventually were dismissed because prosecutors could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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