This may be the only time I have ever typed these words: Well done, Gary Bettman.
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested for domestic violence after allegedly attacking his girlfriend. Voynov brought the woman to the hospital, when staffers called the authorities and Voynov was arrested. Voynov was released on a $50,000 bond, which was posted early Monday morning, according to the Orange County Register’s Rich Hammond.
Per Redondo Beach jail, Voynov was released on $50,000 bond “about 20 minutes ago.”
— Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) October 20, 2014
For once, Bettman made the right choice.
Learning From the Past
Domestic violence has been a hot issue in the world of sports during the past couple of months. Both Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have been suspended from the NFL for their respective situations. The backlash the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell faced was no doubt something Bettman wanted to avoid at all costs.
How bad would the NHL have looked had it chose to not suspend Voynov, or if it chose to ignore the situation altogether? The NFL went through a similar situation mere months ago, and to take swift action was the right call by the NHL.
Bettman’s track record as commissioner hasn’t been the greatest. There have been three lockouts, an attempt and failure to grow hockey in Southern markets (see Atlanta Thrashers) and a team filing for bankruptcy during Bettman’s 21 years as commissioner. The guy can’t hand out the Stanley Cup or announce the first pick in the NHL draft without being greeted by a wave of boos.
However, he learned from the mistakes of Goodell and acted accordingly. One of the big criticisms of Goodell’s wrongdoings was the fact he alienated about half of his viewership (women represent about 45 percent of NFL fans, according to Scarborough Research).
While the NHL’s female viewership isn’t has high as the NFL’s — between 36 and 42 percent of viewers during the 2013 Stanley Cup final were women, according to Sports Media Watch — it’s still important Bettman doesn’t alienate a healthy chunk of his viewership by not acting on this hot-topic issue.
Semyon Varlamov Case
However, the NHL isn’t a stranger to the issue of domestic violence. Just last year, Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was allowed to keep playing after he was arrested and charged with domestic violence after allegedly attacking his girlfriend.
The NHL did not get involved with the Varlamov case last year, opting to let the facts come to fruition and then act accordingly. Varlomov was allowed to play and travel with the team while the investigation was ongoing, but he was eventually cleared of all charges.
In an email to The Hockey News, NHL deputy commission Bill Daly said the “circumstances were different” in the Varlamov case, but Daly did not go into more detail. The email reads:
I think the landscape has changed for all of us over the past six months. 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.
It’s too early to tell what is or isn’t different about these two cases since we don’t know a lot about the Voynov case. However, like Daly said, the NFL’s mishandling of its domestic violence cases definitely played a huge role in how the NHL dealt with the Voynov situation.
The good news is Bettman faced a potential PR crisis and dealt with it the way Goodell and the NFL should have dealt with it earlier.
Bettman certainly isn’t the most popular commissioner in sports, but you can’t deny he made the right move today.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.