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Mark Madden: Slava Voynov has paid debts, but return to NHL unlikely

November 27, 2018

Slava Voynov has applied for reinstatement to the NHL.

The two-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman hasn’t played in the league since October 2014. He was arrested (and ultimately convicted) for domestic violence. The police report says Voynov punched, choked, kicked, pushed and bloodied his spouse.

The NHL suspended Voynov indefinitely. The Los Angeles Kings voided his contract. Voynov spent two months in jail, then returned to his native Russia. He has since played in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League.

But now, Voynov’s record has been expunged. His probation is over. He’s 28, still in his prime. He wants to return to the NHL.

Should the league allow it? Or should a misdemeanor domestic abuse conviction translate to a death sentence for Voynov’s North American pro career even after he has fulfilled all debts to the law?

If the NHL listens to the echo chamber, Voynov will never again skate in the league.

But, although I in no way condone the actions that landed Voynov in trouble with the law, he should be reinstated.

At what point does rehabilitation trump revenge? Voynov has done everything required. He hasn’t relapsed. Voynov has done nothing to show he’s a current or future risk.

Voynov lost four years of his NHL career and more than $16 million. Coupled with what the legal system imposed, isn’t that enough? That seems a strong example set.

The NHL doesn’t have a domestic violence policy, instead reviewing each case individually.

Pittsburgh probably shouldn’t have an opinion on this.

When James Harrison was arrested for domestic violence in 2008, he didn’t miss a day of work or lose one dollar. This being Pittsburgh and him being a Steeler, charges were dropped inside a month after Harrison completed anger management. Nary a peep of protest was heard in Pittsburgh, Yinzer Nation having chosen Steeler Sundays over the moral high ground.

When convicted dogfighter Mike Vick joined the Steelers in 2015, negativity was kept to a minimum. The Animal Rescue League moved a fundraiser from Heinz Field to PPG Paints Arena, but everybody else rolled over and played dead.

Perhaps Pittsburgh is a good landing spot for Voynov. He’s a right-handed defenseman, and he’s really good. If the citizens didn’t care about what Harrison did, they shouldn’t care about Voynov’s malfeasance.

The division of America and social media’s “mob rules” mentality is jamming revenge culture down our throats.

ABC fired Roseanne from America’s top-rated sitcom because of a racist tweet.

Director James Gunn was canned from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie series because of tweets that attempted to put pedophilia and rape in a comedic light.

The people who argue for Roseanne argue against Gunn, and the people who argue for Gunn argue against Roseanne. It’s not about what’s done, it’s about what side you support.

(The best thing about the Gunn controversy was when the stars of the “Guardians” franchise wrote an open letter supporting Gunn’s reinstatement, signing it the “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Like they actually are the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”)

The NHL takes a hard line on domestic violence. Nashville’s Austin Watson got suspended for the first 27 games of this season after pleading no contest to a domestic assault charge (later reduced to 18 on appeal by an independent arbitrator).

The NHL tends to let court cases play out before imposing discipline, with those accused continuing to play while their case is investigated. If the legal system could be trusted, it would provide all the discipline sports leagues need.

The NHL would probably benefit from a clear-cut domestic violence policy: not just for the sake of mandatory punishments, but also to provide support services for victims.

Those arguing against Voynov’s reinstatement point to Ray Rice being informally banned by the NFL after shocking video of him punching his wife surfaced in 2014.

In reality, Rice’s career was fading. He averaged just 3.1 yards per carry in his last NFL season. If he’d averaged 5.3 yards like he did in 2009, Rice would have carried on playing. Rice was blackballed because his meager contributions wouldn’t be worth the PR nightmare, not because he committed domestic violence. (See Kaepernick, Colin.)

Would the same happen to Voynov? Possibly. But he’s still a very good player and has a solid resume.

Voynov probably should get another chance.

Given today’s social vibe, he probably won’t.

Those who don’t want Voynov to play bleat about “doing the right thing.”

OK. But according to who?

Sarah Silverman, maybe. Her giving permission apparently trumps the #MeToo movement. (Unfortunately for Louis C.K., that’s an exaggeration.)

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