Slava Voynov competing at PyeongChang despite past domestic violence

Slava Voynov was suspended indefinitely from the NHL for domestic violence. (AP Photo)

It was one of the most disturbing domestic violence cases in sports.

Then-Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was charged with and pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to a spouse, his wife Marta Varlamova. He spent nearly two months in jail. He was suspended indefinitely. He eventually left the United States before deportation proceedings could begin and returned to Russia.

In case you had forgotten the gristly details around Voynov’s case, the Los Angeles Times has quite the reminder for you.

Voynov kicked her five to six times on the ground, Varlamova told police, while she screamed for him to stop. When she tried to get up, he pushed her into the corner of a flat-screen television mounted on the wall. That opened a 1.2-inch laceration above Varlamova’s left eye that required eight stitches to close.

While that was the end of Voynov’s career in the United States, he still had a job in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League waiting for him when he returned home. And now, he’s back in the Olympics as one of 168 Olympic Athletes from Russia competing at the Games. He is able to participate since he is no longer in the NHL, which did not allow its players to compete in PyeongChang.

At least one OAR teammate thinks Voynov deserves the honor of an Olympic appearance.

“I know that he’s a good player and obviously he deserves to be here,” Mikhail Grigorenko said, per NBC Tampa affiliate WFLA. “He’s one of our leaders on defense, so I’m not surprised he’s here. The around-hockey stuff, there’s people that decide that.”

Grigorenko isn’t alone in his defense of Voynov. The Russian hockey program tweeted a defense of Voynov on Monday, saying he is in “a happy marriage” and asking that the media “immediately stop speculating on this matter.”

All of the acceptance, all of this defense of Voynov in his home country makes sense when you consider the climate of his home country when it comes to domestic violence. Russia’s legislative body voted 380-3 last year to decriminalize certain types of domestic violence, such as battery on family members that results in minor harm like small lacerations and bruising. Russian president Vladimir Putin signed it into law.

Voynov’s presence on the OAR team has not gone unnoticed by broadcasters, though analyst Mike Milbury didn’t exactly go after him when his past domestic violence was mentioned.

“He left a huge void in the Los Angeles Kings’ defense, otherwise [they] may have gone on to win more than the championships they did already,” Milbury said. “This guy was a special player, and an unfortunate incident left the Los Angeles Kings without a great defenseman.”

As the OAR enter tournament play, Voynov has tallied two assists and more ice time than any player on the team. With a roster composed of veterans of the KHL, the top professional league allowing its players to play in PyeongChang, the Russians figure to be the tournament favorite going forward.

If the Russians win gold, a major reason will be the 28-year-old Voynov, currently playing in his prime. The NHL didn’t reject him because he wasn’t good enough.

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