NHL Domestic Violence Suspension Shows Leagues Working to Avoid Repeat of NFL Fiasco

The NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence controversy has become a cautionary tale for fellow professional sports leagues. The NHL’s suspension of Slava Voynov on Monday morning is the latest example that pro sports outfits are taking domestic violence seriously.

Voynov, a defenseman for the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, was suspended indefinitely by commissioner Gary Bettman, following his arrest on charges of domestic violence Monday morning.

In announcing the suspension, the NHL highlighted section 18-A.5 of the collective bargaining agreement, which states: "The League may suspend the Player pending the League's formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the Player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League."

Unlike the NFL, which at times appeared flatfooted and reactionary, the NHL was able to get their announcement of Voynov’s suspension out ahead of any media reports. With the NHL a distant fourth among the professional sports leagues in terms of popularity and media coverage, it was much easier for Bettman and his executives to get ahead of the story.

Voynov is the second player arrested for domestic violence in a little under a year, though the action by Bettman represents an about-face from the previous incident. In October of 2013, Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was arrested by police on second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault charges involving a dispute with his girlfriend. During the investigation – the charges were later dropped – Varlamov continued to play.

The NHL isn’t the only pro league that has been attempting to take the moral high ground on domestic violence following Roger Goodell’s much-criticized actions with Ray Rice.

Last month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he would take a “fresh look” at the league’s domestic violence policies, while MLB commissioner Bud Selig said the league, along with incoming commissioner Rob Manfred, was in the process of creating a more stringent league policy.

(Photo Credit: Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)