NHL learning from the NFL’s mistakes

Just two weeks into the season, domestic violence reared its ugly head into the NHL’s headlines.

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested and released from jail Monday morning for beating his girlfriend, whose name is not being released by authorities. Despite the nasty incident from one of its players, the NHL is learning from the NFL’s mistakes when dealing with Ray Rice.

When the NHL got wind of the arrest, the league immediately suspended Voynov indefinitely. According to the league’s press release, Voynov is suspended pending the league’s investigation of the arrest. Voynov can be suspended because of a clause in the collective bargaining agreement, stating, “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.”

The NHL handled the situation better than the NFL, using the blunders the NFL made in handling Ray Rice’s situation as an example. Rather than wait for the team to suspend Voynov, the NHL did so as soon as it happened. The Kings released a statement saying they support the suspension from the league and will help the league in its investigation in any way they can. Also, the NHL did not wait for a news source to break the story, but broke the news itself.

The suspension comes during the middle of two philanthropic movements by the league. Oct. 16 saw the majority of hockey teams change their social media avatars to purple to raise awareness of LGBT rights and bullying. Hockey Fights Cancer, a month long event to raise awareness of cancer, started yesterday and runs through Nov. 17. While league perception should never be considered when making a move to suspend a player or not, suspending Voynov between these two events sends a positive message to the fans that the league will not stand for domestic violence.

This incident is not the first time the league dealt with domestic violence. Last October, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was arrested for second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault charges against his girlfriend. The league did not immediately suspend Varlamov, and he was allowed to practice, travel and play with the Avalanche until his charges were dropped in December. When asked about the comparisons between the two incidents, the league told ESPN.com that the facts and circumstances were different.

Ultimately, the NHL should be praised for their quick response to the Voynov situation. Suspending him hours after the arrest shows there is most likely compelling evidence that Voynov should be suspended. Also, Voynov is a top-four defenseman for the Kings, and the league is not willing to sacrifice discipline for a top player. Obviously, more facts will be released over time and investigations will conclude, but thus far, the NHL did the right thing by suspending Voynov indefinitely.