LOS ANGELES — As reported on Twitter, at virtually the same time, Orange County Register reporter Rich Hammond and LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, followed a couple of minutes later by NHL.com writer Curtis Zupke, suspended Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov skated with teammates during the team’s game-day morning skate on December 2 at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California, a violation of the terms of his suspension imposed by the National Hockey League after he was accused of domestic violence on his wife in October.
So, uh, Slava Voynov is practicing with the Kings. No, I don’t know why.—
Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) December 02, 2014
Uhh, Slava skating with Kings.—
Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) December 02, 2014
Slava Voynov is skating with the team at the morning skate; taking line rushes with Alec Martinez.—
Curtis Zupke (@curtiszupke) December 02, 2014
Voynov was charged on November 20 with one felony count of “corporal injury to spouse with great bodily injury” to his wife, Marta Varlamova, in an incident that occurred on October 19.
Voynov was arraigned in Los Angeles Superior Court in Torrance, California on December 1, where he entered a not guilty plea.
The Kings indicated that Voynov was out for his routine skate, this time, prior to his teammates hitting the ice for their practice. The Kings said that the skate was optional for the team as their justification for Voynov’s participation, but the National Hockey League reacted swiftly.
“The Los Angeles Kings have been fined $100,000 for violating the terms of defenseman Slava Voynov’s suspension,” the league announced in a statement.
“Voynov skated with teammates today during a Club practice,” the league statement continued. “Such activity is in direct contravention of the terms of the suspension levied Oct. 20, which permit Mr. Voynov to use club facilities and work with team personnel but prohibit his participation in any team-related functions or activities.”
The Kings’ mea culpa came shortly thereafter.
“This was clearly a mistake on our part and we accept full responsibility,” the Kings said in a statement. “It is incumbent upon us to be more vigilant in managing this situation to ensure that Slava’s allowable training activities always remain separate from the team.”
On November 10, reporters, including yours truly, witnessed Voynov skating with assistant coach John Stevens after the team’s practice session at their practice facility. This has been a regular occurrence since that date.
“[This was] permissible under the terms of the suspension,” Daly told the Register in an e-mail. “He is prohibited only from participating in team activities (practices and other mandatory or optional team functions).”
Given that the terms of Voynov’s suspension were clearly laid out, what were the Kings thinking?
To be sure, they had to know that Voynov was not allowed to skate with the team in practice. To make matters worse, they tried to justify it by stating that he was merely on the ice early for his routine skate, prior to an optional team practice, one in which all of the available players skated.
As such, that only leaves one question: why?
Los Angeles Times reporter Lisa Dillman spoke to Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, who told her that he thought it would be good for Voynov to be around his teammates.
Just got on the ice early - DL thought it would be good for Voynov to be around teammates for the day—
lisa dillman (@reallisa) December 02, 2014
I’m not buying Lombardi’s answer. But don’t expect him or the Kings to reveal their reasons—they won’t show their hand on this one. In fact, it’s not likely that we’ll ever know the true reasons behind the December 2 episode of the Slava Voynov Show.
Doing Their Duty
The Kings were not the only ones in the wrong on December 2.
Indeed, an extremely disturbing reaction to the news that Voynov was skating with the team came from some readers of Hammond’s and Rosen’s posts on Twitter (see above) that broke the news. These readers claimed that this news should not have been reported because it hurt the Kings.
At least one person also tweeted that Rosen, an employee of the Kings, should lose his job because his report on Twitter was detrimental to the team, despite the fact that he was hired by the Kings to be an independent reporter.
Frozen Royalty will not publish the tweets in question, or identify those who posted them. But the kind of thinking that spawned those tweets is not only completely wrong, but it is an ominous sign for our future.
To be sure, if we are going to demand that journalists put the welfare of the team they cover first when reporting the news—this is exactly what the demand was by those who posted the tweets in question—the result would be that their reporting would no longer be unbiased, completely independent or reliable, and in many cases, not factual or accurate.
Instead, what we’ll end up with is news that is, for all intents and purposes, only what teams and leagues want us to have. In other words, it will be inherently biased, entirely unreliable and often wrong, all for the purpose of spoon-feeding us the spin created by the teams and leagues.
One example would be a team playing poorly, but getting news coverage that makes things appear as if everything is coming up roses, and don’t think that won’t happen. In fact, even the Kings were often guilty of that during the earliest years of their web site.
Back then, their marketing department was responsible for all content on their web site. As a writer for the Kings web site at the time, I saw first-hand a lot of pro-Kings spin, even when they were playing poorly. I even had to write some of it.
Is that what we really want going forward? Are fans becoming so blinded by their loyalties that they only want to read, see or hear “news” if it portrays their favorite team or favorite athletes in a positive light?
Even worse, can you imagine what would have happened if this was the kind of reporting we had in this town when the news about Slava Voynov broke back in October? What if that kind of standard was applied on a wider scale to more important news topics?
That thought is so deeply disturbing that I won’t elaborate. Nevertheless, that would be exactly the kind of news reporting those who criticized Hammond and Rosen are advocating for, whether they understand that or not.
In the final analysis, Hammond, Rosen and Zupke deserve praise for staying true to their profession and their principles in reporting this story. For them to do otherwise would push us down a very, very slippery slope towards what would amount to nothing more than shoddy journalism that is controlled by the subjects being reported on, which is inherently dangerous.
Indeed, if we end up going down that road, as a society, we are all in deep, deep trouble. Kudos to Hammond, Rosen and Zupke for doing their part to keep us on the high road, heading in the right direction.
- NHL Got Initial Response To Voynov Incident Right, But There’s Still A Long Way To Go
- LA Kings Leaning On Strong Team Culture To Push Past Distraction Created By Voynov Incident
- Voynov Attorney: “There Was No Crime Here;” D.A. Wants “Additional Follow-Up”
- LA Kings D Slava Voynov Now Faces Felony Domestic Violence Charge
- LA Kings Get Salary Cap Relief For Slava Voynov Suspension
- LA Kings D Slava Voynov Pleads No Contest To Misdemeanor Charges; What Should NHL, LA Kings Do Now?
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