The NHL has made it clear that Slava Voynov’s suspension from the league makes him unable to compete at the World Cup of Hockey, but the Russian Hockey Federation isn’t backing down and says the Russian defenseman should be allowed to play regardless of his suspension.
Vice president of the RHF, Roman Rotenberg, said that Russia does not plan on replacing Voynov ahead of the tournament and that the expectation is that the defenseman will be granted permission to play. According to Rotenberg, the Russian team’s lawyers have been informed and have “prepared an opinion on the situation.”
“There are a variety of use cases, such as with Dany Heatley…and Dennis Rodman in the NBA, when a person has already been punished, and then he was allowed to participate in sports competitions. Voynov has already paid the (price),” Rotenberg said, via AllSport.ru. “The situation with Dany Heatley was much worse. He had a Canadian passport (the incident occurred in the United States, and sanctions could be more severe) but (he was forgiven) and allowed to participate in the (2004) World Cup.”
For those wondering, yes, the reference to Heatley has to do with the September 2003 car crash that involved he and teammate Dan Snyder. The crash resulted in Snyder’s death and Heatley pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, but was sentenced to three years probation.
Voynov, the former Los Angeles Kings defenseman, departed from the NHL before the 2015-16 season after an October 2014 domestic violence charge saw him indefinitely suspended by the league. Voynov entered a plea of no contest in July 2015 and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Following his release from the Seal Beach Detention Center in California, Voynov was taken in by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but he voluntarily left the US and returned to Russia. His contract with the Kings was not officially terminated, but Voynov spent the past season playing with SKA St. Petersburg.
Rotenberg’s comments come little more than a week after it was reported by Russian news outlet TASS that the RHF was trying to negotiate Voynov’s way into the tournament. It’s hard to imagine the NHL budging on allowing Voynov to play, though. After Voynov was named to the team, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Voynov’s status would be reviewed, but Daly said he didn’t believe Voynov could play in the World Cup. Commissioner Gary Bettman backed that statement up ahead of the Stanley Cup final.
“(Voynov has) been suspended from the league,” Bettman said. “The Russian Federation was told that he was not eligible to play in the World Cup. What happens from that moving forward in terms of what somebody may try to do is a different story. But his status has not changed.”
A decision on Voynov will need to be reached before the beginning of the tournament, but it appears both sides could be at an impasse. Russia wants Voynov to play and appears ready to fight for his inclusion, but because it’s an NHL/NHLPA sanctioned tournament — the World Cup isn’t an IIHF competition — the final decision will likely be up to the league. And if the league has the final say, it’s still a safe bet Voynov doesn’t suit up.