The Los Angeles Kings’ future is significantly clearer than it was 24 hours ago.
The Kings, and their fans alike, finally have an end result to the drama that has been Slava Voynov’s legal troubles. Voynov will not seek a return to the Kings’ roster, or a return to the NHL for that matter.
For almost a year now, the Russian defender has been immersed in legal trouble surrounding a battery case involving his wife. Over this course of time, Voynov has been suspended by the NHL for the incident, plead no contest in a Los Angeles Superior Court, served jail time and most recently agreed to not contest the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s efforts to deport him.
In short, Voynov is going to avoid a long trial going over possible deportation and return to Russia on his own. Voynov’s leaving and not being deported leaves the possibility of his returning, through an application process, later in his life and possibly returning to the NHL. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
On Wednesday, Voynov issued a statement through his agent that informed the NHL, the NHL Player Assn. and the Kings that he intends to return to Russia.
“I sincerely apologize to those in and around the game of hockey, who have been affected by my situation, and I also wish the players of the LA Kings success in the future,” Voynov also said in the statement.
After Voynov’s announcement, the Kings also issued a statement which said they had planned on cutting Voynov loose and had set a deadline of Sept. 17, the start of the team’s training camp, to get it done.
On July 2, Slava Voynov entered a plea of no contest to domestic violence. Since that development, Mr. Voynov has been in the custody of the Seal Beach Detention Center and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. During this period of detention, the Los Angeles Kings decided he would no longer play for the team. The method by which we would ensure this outcome was something we carefully considered and we established a deadline of September 17 – the beginning of our 2015-16 training camp – to reach this outcome. Recently it became evident to us that our conclusion to this process would be to terminate Mr. Voynov’s Standard Player’s Contract. However, Mr. Voynov’s announcement today of his intention to leave the United States and return to Russia makes the termination unnecessary.
As we have publicly stated since Mr. Voynov’s arrest last year, the Kings organization will not tolerate domestic violence. As part of that commitment, we will soon announce a series of new Conduct Awareness Training Initiatives that reflect the values and principles central to our franchise.
Voynov’s situation kept him off of the ice for almost the entire the 2014-15 season, he played in the Kings’ first six games of the season. Since Voynov’s arrest, many wondered if he would dawn a Kings sweater next season, if ever again. At the same time, others questioned if Voynov should be allowed to ever play in the NHL again.
As the case went along, NHL fans voiced their opinions on messages boards and social media sites alike. Plenty of fans called for the end of Voynov’s NHL career and felt that his game on Oct. 19 should be both his last game for the Kings and in the NHL. At the same time a large contingent argued that Voynov had served his time and should be allowed back on the ice as a result.
Which ever side of the line you fell on, it doesn’t matter now. Voynov is headed back to Russia and the Kings are just a few weeks away from the 2015-16 season. It’s now time to shift the focus back to what is really important, the hockey. Everyone watching and waiting for the outcome of the case can now shift their attention away from the court room and back onto the ice.
The Kings’, and their fans as well, have had a rough summer. Los Angeles, thanks to Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014 , has experienced the highest of highs during recent summers. This summer on the other hand has pulled everyone associated with the Kings right back down to earth.
Now that Voynov’s situation is off the table, the Kings organization can shift their focus back to what really matters, lifting the Stanley Cup.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.