With the Los Angeles Kings failing to make the post-season, general manager Dean Lombardi has had some time to look inward and reflect on a troublesome season.
It’s not hockey that’s been at the top of Lombardi’s agenda, despite the NHL’s reigning Stanley Cup champions and resident puck possession juggernaut’s disappointing 2014-15 campaign. Instead, it’s the fallout from a pair of off-ice incidents that has Lombardi working to make better people of his hockey players.
Kings players will undergo training and education programs for domestic violence and drug use, according to the Orange County Register.
Defenceman Slava Voynov faces one felony count of spousal battery stemming from October incident in which he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend. Voynov is set to head trial on July 7.
Centre Jarret Stoll is accused of having cocaine and Ecstasy with him when he was arrested at a Las Vegas pool party in April. Authorities have yet to pursue any charges against Stoll.
If the Kings and/or the NHL are to be accused of too little, too late with regards to their response to these incidents, Lombardi will be the first to admit it.
He recently spoke about the separate incidents and the club’s need to educate its players on such matters for the first time.
Via OC Register:
“Clearly at the meetings and the debriefing at the end of the year, it was the number-one topic, before we even got to the hockey,” Lombardi said. “The first thing you look at is, were there any signs that we should have been aware of, in both of these incidents? You look at yourself, as managers and coaches…We could do more. Maybe, whether it’s the coaches or the managers or even the personnel people, if those people could open to us could maybe we have been aware of this potentially happening. That’s the first step.
‘”The second thing, and this is what I said with the Voynov thing. I walked down to Jeff Solomon’s [Kings Vice President/Hockey Operations and Legal Affairs] office and said, ‘This is my fault.’ We neglected to educate our players. We spend time teaching them systems, nutrition and everything else, but we missed a big step here, in terms of ensuring that they understand right and wrong. That has to be reinforced, not only as a human being but as somebody who is a representative of your community. It heightens the need for this.”
Lombardi referenced the books written by former San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh and his push to educate NFL players on domestic violence in the 1980s as an example of himself coming up short in this area.
Lombardi says he and the Kings are working with several domestic violence groups to put together a plan to deliver education programs to their players.
The club will bring in former NCAA basketball standout and subject of the ESPN 30-for-30 documentary “Unguarded,” Chris Herren, to work on drug and addiction education. Herren, a former draft pick of the Denver Nuggets (2nd round, 33rd overall, 1999 NBA Draft) battled addiction over the course of his college and brief NBA career.
Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the NHL in October. The Kings are currently on the hook for Voynov’s $4.167-million annual salary cap hit through 2019. Stoll is a pending unrestricted free agent.