Voynov Should Not Return to the NHL

For years we have read or heard the phrase, “sports is my escape from the real world.” For many sports fans watching it, reading about it, writing about it or listening to sports talk radio is a nice reprieve from the office or life in general.

It still is that way for many people, and it should be. Being a fan is supposed to be fun, but sometimes it can be equally frustrating depending on the direction of the team you cheer for.

However, I believe we can’t completely separate sports from the real world anymore.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Sports is one of the few things that unites people from all walks of life. If you are an Edmonton Oilers fan it doesn’t matter what your job is, your ethnicity or your gender. You all cheer together. Look at the diversity of fans who congregate at Jurassic Park for a Toronto Raptors playoff game. Watch them erupt in joyous unison after a clutch shot. While racism still exists in our society, sporting events often show people of different colour hugging, smiling and enjoying the journey together.

It is wonderful.

However, sports, and how they are covered has opened up opportunities where real life and sports need to intersect.

One of those examples is former NHL defenceman Vyacheslav Voynov.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Yesterday arbitrator Shyam Das upheld NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s decision that Voynov should be suspended for the equivalent of one NHL season, but Das found Voynov should be credited with having already served 41 games of the suspension last season. So Voynov will be eligible to return midway through next season.

The Los Angeles Kings own his rights and sent out a press release soon after Das’ ruling was announced.

“Today the NHL arbitrator rendered a final decision on further discipline to Slava Voynov. From our perspective, the player will not be playing for the Kings. We will now determine the impact of the arbitrator’s decision on our rights to the player and consider our options going forward.”

Voynov won’t be playing for the Kings, but will another NHL team acquire his rights and sign him to an NHL contract?

Before we discuss that, let’s look at the situation that led to Voynov being suspended by the NHL in 2014 for domestic abuse.

Voynov spent almost two months in jail after pleading no contest to corporal injury against a spouse. Upon his release from jail he was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but rather than attend immigration proceedings he elected to return to Russia. He played three seasons for the KHL’s St. Petersburg’s SKA. Last year he didn’t play anywhere as he sat out his suspension.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Reading he plead no contest and went to jail is one thing. Reading what he did to get put in jail is much different.

Katie Strang outlined the viciousness of Voynov’s attack on his then-girlfriend, now wife, Marta Varlamov in an outstanding article for the Athletic last June. You can read the entire piece here. I urge you to read it. It is wonderful journalism, but also heart-breakingly painful to read how awful one human could treat another.

A few lines really stood out to me.

“A statement included within that report states that, while attending a team Halloween party, the two began arguing, during which Voynov removed [Varlamova’s] costume glasses and stomped on them in front of the guests. When they continued arguing outside the venue, Voynov “punched her in the left jaw with a closed fist.”

Strang continued to outline what the police report said.

The two returned home and their argument continued. “Voynov wrapped both of his hands around Ms. Varlamova’s neck and began to squeeze, making it difficult for her to breathe.” Voynov, according to the motion, “continued to choke her while repeatedly pushing her to the floor of the bedroom,” telling her to “get out,” that there would be “no more money for her,” and that she would be “gone.”

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

According to the motion, Voynov then “kicked her five or six times all over her body” and when she attempted to stand he “pushed her down directly into the bottom corner of the flat screen television that was mounted to the bedroom wall.” Varlamova sustained “a head laceration that resulted in severe bleeding” and throughout all of this “she repeatedly screamed for him to stop.”

Strang obtained 911 transcripts of a call from a neighbour worried about a women screaming and not being treated well.

I encourage you read the entire story.


Even in 2019 when we are a bit more open to discuss domestic or sexual abuse than previous generations, when you read the details of what Voynov did it is much worse than the picture most of us have in our minds when we think what abuse looks like. I believe if you’ve never beaten your child or spouse (man or woman), or been a victim of abuse, it is hard to truly imagine what abuse really looks like.

It is demeaning. It is dangerous. It is ugly. And it is fucking deplorable.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

But sadly, it still occurs far too often. Children are abused. Women are abused. Men are abused. The elderly are abused. No group is immune to it.

While men are still more likely to be the abuser, there are many cases of women abusing their partners or spouses.

If we never discuss it, I doubt it will diminish.

It is an uncomfortable discussion and there are many aspects to consider.

Voynov’s case is in the spotlight, and NHL fans can’t just ignore it.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Some don’t want to talk about it. Some feel it isn’t their business, that it is between Voynov and his wife.

I respect that, but I think it is worthy of discussion.

If we want change in society, then we have to discuss uncomfortable things.

Reading what Voynov did to Varlamova made me sick. I can’t imagine punching someone you love in the face. Or choking them, or kicking them repeatedly. And the scary thing is it wasn’t the first time. He not only felt it was okay to physically abuse her, he felt it was okay to do it repeatedly according to witness testimony.

But Voynov is far the only abuser in the sporting world. The statistics tell us there are likely abusers among fans, bloggers, media, players, and NHL staff. We don’t want to think about it, but we shouldn’t pretend those people don’t exist.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

It is an epidemic in society that needs to stop, and if the sporting world has to be the leader, then so be it. We should welcome the responsibility.


The Los Angeles Kings said they will not sign Voynov. Will another team trade for his rights this summer?

Yesterday on Twitter I asked people a trio of questions.

Has Voynov been punished enough for abuse?
Does he deserve a second chance?
Would you be okay if your NHL team signed him?

The results had no middle ground. You either thought yes, he deserves a second chance, or you were adamant no NHL team should sign him.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I believe in second chances, but the person has to show remorse, and also prove they have changed. How much therapy has he done? Did he go with his wife? Has he spoke publicly about what he learned and how he has changed. For me, it couldn’t just be a blind “he deserves a second chance.”

If a team signs him they better have a good PR plan of how this will work, because there will be a backlash, and rightfully so.

Voynov hasn’t played in the NHL for essentially five seasons. He played six games in 2014/2015, before the aforementioned attack occurred. But after he spent almost two months in jail, he has worked. He was employed by the KHL. He was given a second chance and he made a good living doing so.

Does the NHL owe him a second chance?

If I was a owner of an NHL team I would not sign him.

It is my business and as a business owner you have the right to choose who you employ. It would send a strong message to your staff, players and fans that you don’t condone abuse.

Companies outside the sporting world do this. They have a code of conduct, and if you don’t adhere to it, you won’t work there anymore.

Why can’t NHL teams have the same?

They should simply take a stand and say we won’t employ people who abuse their spouse or children.

If you choose to abuse someone to the despicable level that Voynov did then you won’t be employed by our team any longer or in the future.

It is very straightforward.

And this isn’t about past cases. What happened in the past is irrelevant to me. I don’t care what discipline the NHL handed out in the 1980s, 1990s or even in 2010

Just like the rules have changed and evolved on the ice, it is time the NHL evolves and changes off of the ice.

I don’t believe in 2019 we should say, “stick to sports.”

Professional sports are one of the most followed activities in the world. People of all ages, races and walks of life follow it closely.

If the NHL takes a hard stand against domestic abuse, maybe it will make someone think twice about abusing someone in the future.

Maybe it won’t stop them, but at least the NHL will have created a new code of conduct.

I hope Voynov and his family find forgiveness for each other. I have a lot of empathy for his family and I hope he has stopped abusing his wife.

But I wouldn’t have him on my team. I wonder how many owners and GMs will feel the same?

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Serious Gord

    Jason this is a highly sensitive issue. You obviously agree.

    Using curse words is demeaning and distracting.

    As is the inappropriate description of domestic violence being an “epidemic”. It is not.

    It is endemic. A good journo like you should be more careful.

    As for denying voynov from making a living:

    We are a country founded on the Christian ethic of forgiveness.

    We do extraordinary things of forgiveness – from letting terrorists who murder allied soldiers will free to people convicted and imprisoned for impaired vehicular homicide to play pro hockey again.

    Are you saying in the specific case of domestic violence people should forever be denied the means to making a living?

    Seems pretty extreme to me by comparison.

    That noted:

    If the league wishes to not employ players convicted of domestic violence that’s their choice. Just as a pro league should be able to terminate a player for wearing piggy socks and kneeling when the anthem is played.

    Further, as domestic violence is endemic, there are lots more Voynovs in the league who just haven’t been caught.

    And there is a long history of stars who abused their wives – Bobby hull and Tim Horton being two. (Stephen brunt has hinted that Bobby Orr’s dad was abusive).

    • Jason Gregor

      If one word in an article of 1700 words distracts you. I can’t help that.
      And it is not endemic. Here is the definition of endemic:
      –belonging or native to a particular people or country.

      Are you saying only athetes are abusers? Or only Canadians? Or Russians?

      And I wrote, which you clearly choose to not read, that I don’t care what happened in the past. Previous abusers being allowed to play in the NHL means nothing. Times change. The league can evolve. Slavery used to be legal in some states. It isn’t now. The NHL has an opportunity to change who they want in the league. Simple.

      • Serious Gord

        No you are wrong again. Endemic means “… regularly found”. As in ‘all around us.”

        Epidemic means “… a sudden widespread occurrence”

        Epidemic implies that it is something that is growing in occurrence. It is not.

        Epidemic is an alarmist term and an exaggeration certainly in this case.

        Words matter – especially in matters like this. And I would also point out that your use of the F word was very deliberate and pointed for effect – as you must certainly agree any column can’t be judged just by word count.

        • KootenayDan

          You sir and your comments are not being well received by the majority. Identify yourself put yourself out there amongst the masses like these hockey writers do everyday if you think you have all the answers. That was a terrific article very informative and a good read and if your offended by that one word in today’s world you need to get out of the old folks home for a spell and get some fresh air.

        • Jason Gregor

          Actually Gord you are wrong. Because you say it doesn’t make it right. Statistics say one in 4 women are subjected to abuse. That is a massive number. That would be over 4 million Canadian women, and I’m rounding down.

          Experts on domestic abuse called it an Epidemic, but you still think it isn’t. Good to know.

          The one thing you were correct on is I did use the F word to be deliberate and to make a point. Abuse is deplorable. It happens too often and it is happening more than ever. That is why it is an epidemic.

          It is easy for you to try and down play it when you post anonymously isn’t it. Sad state. But, hey, feel free to keep telling yourself it isn’t an epidemic. Go tell that to the million of women world wide being abused. And maybe have the courage to tell them using your real name.

          • Cujo

            Hi Jason,

            Gord is actually right, in a medical sense on the usage of the words. A disease goes from an epidemic to an endemic problem, it doesn’t mean it is less serious.

            You are also right in your usage of the words, as epidemic in a vernacular sense can be used to indicate “wide ranging” or “extensive”.

            However, you are being an idiot(medical definition) when you insinuate that Gord doesn’t think it is a serious problem as no where in his discourse does he say that or insinuate that.

            Though you are right to be annoyed by someone being pedantic on an issue that is obviously quite emotional issue for you. Emotional appeal sells newspapers and political campaigns, but seldom actually solves the problem.

            Be best.

    • polsy

      Breaking a rule of mine here, making an online comment. This is the area of a website where all the false academics love to make an appearance. The standard approach is to gang up with the biggest voice to protect ego. Hilarious when one man is able to make a well thought out and backed argument, and the response is a rally of the easily misled. A couple times a year I see one person able to dismantle a group in comments. Congratulations Gord, you’ve done just that. People may not see it now, but in pragmatic and reasonable mind states they will.

      To everyone choosing the moral high ground here, remember this: Life is messy. We all know right from wrong, then before you know it a series of events happen, and there you are wondering how you could have just done what you did. I know I have, so I choose forgiveness.

      And the correct word here is Endemic. Scream and yell and only post the half of your google search results that support your mistake if you want, but Gord got you all here. I do hope reason can win out. Accepting a mistake on a word choice is a great place to start. You wouldn’t want to go the rest of your life not getting work with anything that involves words because just once you made a mistake with a word, would you?

    • BasementDweller

      “We are a country founded on the Christian ethic of forgiveness.” I guess I missed that part while getting my degree in Canadian history.

      You can forgive all you want, you can point out that there “lots more Voynovs in the league who just haven’t been caught”, you can think he has a right to earn a living playing hockey….. none of that means that he’s not a POS, and any GM who signs him is a POS too.

      If Jason should “be more careful” with his word choice in articles you should be more careful with your posts, lest you like a defender of abusers.

      • Serious Gord

        You didn’t take Canadian history obviously. Go read up on the role of the queen and the Anglican Church.

        Again another poster who doesn’t read a comment carefully. Nowhere did I say he should be allowed to play in the nhl.

        I AM a proponent of forgiveness when merited. I am a Canadian after all.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Forgiveness? Really?

      Do we let the murderer avoid jail time because he’s sorry? Or because he’s not the only murderer in the world? They are forever denied a means to make a living, and even if they’re not they are stigmatized for the rest of their life by the rest of society. Your examples are not accurate.

      Do not all businesses have a code of conduct? A set of rules? Is the NHL any different?

      As enlightened beings, we are capable of making decisions. He made the wrong one.

      And no, epidemic is the right word, when 1 in 4 women on this planet are beaten or sexually abused.

      Check yourself, son. The standard on a beating like this has to be hard, fast and as unforgiving as the act itself.

      Well done, Jason.

      • Serious Gord

        Murderers are NOT denied the ability to make a living once they have served their sentence. MacT was convicted of vehicular homicide – murder in the second degree.

        Perhaps you should check yourself…

        And you should read my comments more carefully. And look up the definition of epidemic. It IS endemic as you note with that stat.

        • wiseguy

          I rarely agree with Gord but in this case I do. Voynov pled no contest which means he owned up to it, and served his appropriate punishment as dished out by the courts. His avoiding the hearing for US customs was because he was not contesting their action to remove him from the USA for committing a crime under his work Visa. He left voluntarily. None of this shows a man with no remorse but one who accepts the accusations and punishment imposed.
          Our society is guilty on “do the crime you do the time”. However, once the punishment is served, your debt to society is done. Whether a business wants to employ you or not is up to them. It’s odd how you crucify the NHL if they let Voynov play but would praise a business for giving a convicted thief / murderer / gang banger a job upon his release. If a released felon, even a reformed one, cannot get a job / housing / etc. he would more likely return to a life of crime. We would criticize those businesses who are too concerned about their image to take a chance and give the downtrodden a leg up.
          Obviously Voynov doesn’t have the same “finding food/shelter” issues if he couldn’t play in the nhl but the same principles apply. If you disagree with the severity of the 2 month sentence that is an issue you have worth the judicial system. MacT killed someone with poor judgement and driving while drunk. Most applauded Sather for giving him a second chance when Boston cut him. I know we all like to be the white knight in defence of women, but is Kim Radley’s life worth less? Given that second chance, MacT turned his life around and has been a good representative for the NHL. Imagine if the NHL just banned him… no Hockey Canada Olympics/ world championships, no 2006 Stanley cup final…

        • TKB2677

          As I said in my comment, everyone deserves a second chance. Where I think you are off base is the guy has gone out of his way to escape atoning for his crime. He was transfer to US customs but rather face his punish, he went back to Russia. Then when he decides to come back to the NHL, they give him a punishment and he fights that as well. If the guy had any remorse, he would take his suspension and once its up, go look for an NHL job.

          What’s worse about your comment is you make it sound like this ” poor guy ” was being unjustly blocked and not allowed to make a living. The guy wasn’t eating out of garbage cans living on the streets. He was making MILLIONS of dollars in Russia.

    • scott5017

      Gord why you still come here is baffling. At this point it can only be to get a rise from people, which is basically trolling. How miserable are you? Seriously, your life must be so empty i feel bad for you, almost.

    • chezzychez

      This should never be a water under the bridge scenario though. If he wants to play in the league he needs to own up to what he’s done and seek forgiveness. You shouldn’t be able to just hide for 5 years, come back and get a job like nothing happened. People make mistakes and are going to continue to make mistakes, but we don’t have any reason to believe that Voynov is remorseful and is trying to be better because of it.

    • chickenStew

      “I get frustrated with bluster”

  • Soccer Steve

    In line with the Era of Outrage, where everyone is mad about something and their voice must be heard, we get this tripe. What an awful, unprofessional, and irresponsible article. Gregor, as much as you pump Seinfeld, and Michael Richards with it, do you not see how hypocritical it reads?

    Not one person here, Gregor included, has a clue what went on behind closed doors. What does it tell you about their relationship that they got married in the end? More than the absolute nothing you knew before reading that, that’s for sure. Not only that, but he was suspended from his job, lost his job, arrested, hired legal counsel (I assume), went to a court of law, and was sentenced to prison. But that obviously isn’t enough. Many comments, which I am certain the author would’ve easily foreseen being posted yet fanned the flames anyways, call for eternal public condemnation, violence towards and sometimes even death for this individual. But as you can see the author will not reply against any of these absurdities yet he is happy to argue with a fellow contrarian.

    And it is very lazy of the author to stop at the NHL. Why not call out the KHL for allowing him to play? Because the author knows where this leads: “No, he can’t play in the NHL. Nor the KHL. Nor as a coach, trainer, agent. Not in sport at all. Not as a cook, janitor, or garbageman either. Nothing, nowhere.”

    So remember sheeple: if you make a mistake, a BIG mistake, where you lose your job, you hire a lawyer, go to court, and you ultimately end up going to jail for what you did, you are OK with being publicly shamed, ostracized and condemned to never make a livelihood again. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve rectified the situation privately and in the eyes of the law. It’s over for you. You live in a world where you, as some comments read, are called “scum” forever, may get beaten in the street, or might even have your life ended by morality thugs and mob vigilantism. You’re OK with this.

    • Bigdaddypuck

      How about how we had stood by and watched a murder be associated with the team and only quietly mention it. MacTavish turned his life around great he also removed someone from the face of the earth because he enjoyed drinking. Well we plucked up right after jail and if he can be celebrated and he can be talked about as a local celebrity and continue to have suscsess after he murdered someone. Why can’t Voynov have a second chance?

    • Rob...

      Did I miss something? I thought Michael Richards lost his temper at a heckler during a stand-up routine and used inappropriate racist words. Comparing that to physical assault seems a bit much. Now if Richards showed a bunch of actions beyond that incident or promoted right wing hate groups I’d say you had a point.

      • Soccer Steve

        Could’ve said Michael Jackson, Mel Gibson, Phil Spector, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, almost half of all NFL players, the list goes on and on. Went with the one that exposes the author as a hypocrite. I agree it doesn’t fit that well here but my point remains; it was a lazy, terrible article.

        • Jason Gregor

          Lazy article? What was lazy? Reporting the fact he went to jail and including the court documents and 99 calls outlining the abuse he inflicted. But it is lazy, because you say so. Gotcha. Lazy is trying to compare Michael Richards saying something dumb to Voynov beating up his wife, cutting open her head. That is the definition of lazy.

          Also, seems you missed the parts in the article where I said he can still work. I just wouldn’t want him in the NHL. He has been employed by the KHL. I don’t live in Russia and won’t try to end domestic abuse on a global level. It has to start somewhere, and I’d rather it start where I live. In Canada and North America. If we are leaders others will follow.

          Also, I scanned the comments. Didn’t see one saying he should die. I read one suggesting he get his due in jail. It was a dumb comment, I agree. I never once encouraged anyone to inflict abuse on him. He has been living just fine making millions in the KHL. You acting like he is condemned to a horrible life, because he can’t play in the NHL comes across as thought somehow he is the victim. I disagree with any notion that he is somehow the victim. He can work. I just said not in NHL. They should set a standard. There are millions of jobs in the world, never once did I say he shouldn’t be employed again. If you call that lazy, oh well, but I’d argue lazy was your comparisons and then false claims of encouraging he been condemned for live. Take care.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Well said. outrage culture is rife. Everyone wants to be outraged by something or offended by something.

      I think it says a lot when they get married. If the victim, the one that is in the situation can still continue, us as fans can stfu and enjoy hockey.

      We have no idea what happens behind closed doors. I know you aren’t allowed to say this in PC outrage culture, but I will….. What was she doing to deserve the abuse? Real question. If she was just sitting there, on her phone like “oh look, avocados are on sale” and he just comes in swinging, vs her throwing his stuff, breaking things, maybe she hit his dog or emptied his bank account or beat up his sister. Its not ok to hit a woman, but when does equality draw the line? Don’t hit women. I’m just asking the question.

  • Kevwan

    I don’t for a second condone what Voynov did. And I wouldn’t consider cheering or following a team he played for. Second chances? Sorry can’t see it happening with me. I don’t care what happens to him and his kind.

    But Marta is now his wife. Did she stay with him because he makes millions playing hockey? Did Janay Palmer marry Ray Rice a month after he slammed her around a casino elevator because he was in the middle of a 35 million dollar contract? What about the victims? I do care what happens to them. These women and their children need protection and financial security. That money should come from the teams and leagues.

  • Corbs

    I can’t believe anyone would be ok with giving this piece of garbage a second chance. I don’t believe in second chances. How about don’t be an abusive piece of garbage the first time. He shouldn’t have the right to make a living. He probably shouldn’t have the right to live at all after what he did.

  • smiliegirl15

    I was watching a TV show last night almost exactly like this event. It was a real life crime show. Her new husband beat her up on their wedding night. A short two months later, he killed her.
    There would be no place for him in my organization either.

  • Ben918

    He is a monster. That said, he is also a commodity in a business that has nothing to do with his crimes. Personally I think he still be in jail but I won’t fault a team for signing him. The league looked away when Brodeur was accused on abuse and details on that were covered up in a big way. People even looked away when Heatley killed his best friend in a DUI incident. No charges because he paid the parents to be character references for him. I think if Voynov was Canadian and richer, we wouldn’t know the full details of this and he wouldn’t have missed a game.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I cannot, for the life of me, see any fanbase being on board with their team bringing in this piece of garbage. I can’t see how any team could justify bringing him in, I can’t see any fanbase accepting it, and I can’t see him changing. I’ll pass thanks

  • I 100% agree that every abuser should be punished, and not all of them deserves a second chance. I also believe that everyone deserves a fair trial. You talking about a fine journalism that bringing up “facts” from police report, which have not been proven in court of law. Police statement is one side of the story, and not always correct. It is unfair to paint a picture based on accusations. Varlamova said that Voinov abused her on more than one occasion in her report, but do we know for sure that she just did not said it in the heat of the moment? We all tend to feel bad for victims and agree with much of what is said by them, but people not always telling the truth. I understand when they both were in USA and she pulled back reports and did not want to testify, Varlamova might have been scared, feared for her life etc. Again, just speculations. Now she is back home surrounded by family and friends, yet chose to marry Voinov.
    Something happened in that house for sure, but what exactly only two people know. And those two people seem to be happily married now. I understand that he is a sports figure and has to accept and answer for his actions, but in reality what kind of statement would be enough for any of us to accept it?
    Do I want him on my team? I don’t know. If the person whom he abused has forgiven him, who am I to judge? Unless they both come up and tell what really happened there and where they are now, we all just going to keep on speculating and have a bitter tastes in our mouth every time Voinov’s name comes up.

  • kormega

    What’s that soap opera for? He was punished by his team and US laws. If Marta had become his wife after the incident I guess there is everything ok between them. This is a five-year-old story at long last.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      @kormega. Here is my take.

      In some cases it’s virtue signalling (using another person’s behaviour to bolster one’s moral infallibility – e.g., “what a P.O.S., only ______ could ever _______). Sometimes it’s piling on/kicking someone while they are down. Kind of like a positive feedback loop of collective disgust. Other individuals might have direct experience with abuse and become emotional when a particularly high-profile example is described in the media. Before stoning the guy, or anyone who refuses to without knowing all the facts, I invite everyone to ask themselves some questions. What if your son was found guilty of domestic abuse? Is he then scum in your eyes? Forever? What if he went to counseling? What if his livelihood was taken away by the people/media with pitchforks AFTER he paid his debts? This is why we need law and why we need to ignore social justice in most cases. Social justice is by definition a form of punitive action exerted outside (or on top of) legal justice.

      Example: a man goes to prison for life for murder after admitting it, but a certain group of people think that’s not enough punishment. The group write letters to inmates at the same prison encouraging these inmates to punish the man further because he is a monster.

      Yikes. Put down the pitchforks.