The NHL suspended defenceman Slava Voynov on Tuesday for the 2019-20 season and 2020 playoffs after determining he committed acts of domestic violence.
Commissioner Gary Bettman suspended Voynov for what the league called unacceptable off-ice conduct. The 29-year-old Russian could have his eligibility restored on July 1, 2020, based on good behaviour.
Voynov was suspended indefinitely in October 2014 after being arrested and accused of domestic abuse of his wife. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour, left the United States to go back to Russia and in July had the conviction dismissed by a judge in Los Angeles.
After playing three seasons in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League and winning a gold medal at the 2018 Olympics without NHL players, Voynov moved back to the U.S. and was applying to be reinstated by the NHL. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in August said Voynov’s return would be contingent on completing a process with the league to review his case.
The NHL did an investigation and held a hearing March 21 under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement regarding the Oct. 19, 2014, incident involving Voynov and his wife. Bettman said he determined after that investigation and hearing that Voynov engaged in acts of domestic violence against his wife.
"Today’s ruling, while tailored to the specific facts of this case and the individuals involved, is necessary and consistent with the NHL’s strongly-held policy that it cannot and will not tolerate this and similar types of conduct, particularly as directed at a spouse, domestic partner or family member," Bettman said.
The NHL does not have a defined domestic violence policy like other North American professional sports leagues and says it takes each incident on a case-by-case basis.
The Los Angeles Kings, who terminated Voynov’s $25 million contract in 2015, said they are reviewing the NHL’s decision and added, "It is premature for us to comment until we understand what today’s decision, which can be appealed, means in its entirety."
Though he is not under contract, the Kings have rights to Voynov associated with his status on the voluntary retired list.
A spokesman said the NHL Players’ Association is reviewing the decision. Voynov’s agent, Rolland Hedges, did not immediately return a voicemail and text message seeking comment Tuesday.
Voynov has the right to appeal to a neutral arbitrator. If an appeal occurs, that arbitrator would have to be mutually agreed upon by the NHL and NHLPA.
Nashville forward Austin Watson was suspended 27 games in September for unacceptable off-ice conduct following an investigation and hearing after he pleaded no contest in July to a charge of domestic assault stemming from an incident in June. Arbitrator Shyam Das reduced the suspension to 18 games on appeal.
Voynov last played an NHL game on Oct. 19, 2014. He has 190 regular-season and 64 playoff games of experience, all with the Kings, and won the Stanley Cup with them in 2012 and 2014.