Let's get this out of the way now: Slava Voynov is innocent until proven guilty. I'm well aware of that.
The legal system will afford Voynov the presumption of innocence and require that a prosecutor prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury in order to convict Voynov of a crime. He will have more than ample opportunity to defend himself in court, or reach some other resolution with authorities if both parties decide to take that route. The justice system is held to a high standard for a reason.
But the Kings are held to a higher one.
That standard has nothing to do with the burden of proof or the outcome of judicial proceedings. In many ways, the Kings represent a lot that is good about the hockey community. They are consistently involved in good works around the Los Angeles area and their online presence is the envy of most of the hockey world.
But now they are also part of what is bad about the hockey community.
The past year has been fraught with revelations about disgusting conduct among hockey media personalities online. Sites like Yahoo Sports and Awful Announcing took the proper steps to discharge those that were degrading and harassing women online. This is a courageous and important step in the right direction to encourage inclusiveness and safety for fans of all genders in the hockey community. It is also not likely to end any time soon.
Which is why what the Kings are doing is such a problem. Not only are they role models to many young fans who are just learning about the game, but they are also one of the model organizations in the NHL. Allowing Voynov to practice is not simply acknowledging that he hasn't been convicted yet. Allowing Voynov to practice is a tacit endorsement of the notion that a player's off-ice indiscretions are secondary to their on-ice abilities. Misconduct of all kinds, be it self-inflicted harm or harm to another, is tolerated so long as the player has something to offer his team.
In fact, GM Dean Lombardi summed up the wrong approach quite succinctly himself:
Oh, Dean. You were doing so well up to this point. pic.twitter.com/SmCVfJAgok— petbugs (@petbugs13) November 18, 2014
This is bigger than one player's career. It's even bigger than the domestic violence incident itself. It's about how a prominent team squarely in the public eye chooses to act on an issue that the sport has struggled to come to terms with for a long time. Domestic violence can never be tolerated in any circumstance for any reason, because the consequences of doing so are degrading, dehumanizing, and even fatal.
The Los Angeles Kings don't seem to understand that. It appears by their comments and actions that their acceptance of the NHL's indefinite suspension of Voynov was for PR purposes and PR purposes only. Yet domestic violence is a learned behavior. Not just from personal experience, but from how society in general tolerates domestic violence. Creating a culture of acceptability only reinforces the notion that domestic violence is acceptable, so long as it doesn't prevent a hockey player from putting up a point a night.
The Kings are complicit in creating this culture of acceptability, both among NHL players and NHL fans. It is wrong. Full stop. Los Angeles needs to recognize this and reverse course. Quickly.