Column: NHL players keep scoring puppies for children (so much for the good news)

NHL players keep scoring puppies for children

A young fan at a hockey game between the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers holds up a sign for forward Bobby Ryan during a game on Jan. 24.

(Jana Chytilova / Getty Images)

And in today’s sports headlines, 9-year-old Maddie Wright of Powell, Ohio, will get a puppy because her favorite player on the Columbus Blue Jackets scored a goal Monday.

Cam Atkinson actually scored three goals, but Maddie will get only one rescue puppy, per a deal she made with her dad. It was, in fact, a copycat puppy caper: A day earlier, Ottawa youngsters Cole and Reese Jansen held up a sign at the Senators’ game saying they’d been promised a dog if Bobby Ryan would score a goal, and Ryan kindly obliged.

Maddie’s news was the happiest sports-related story to emerge Tuesday, a day otherwise filled with bleak off-the-field tales.

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In the early hours of Tuesday morning ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Clippers forward Blake Griffin had injured his hand in a team-related incident, which was later determined to have been a fight with a member of the team’s equipment staff. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer collaborated with Doc Rivers, the coach and president of basketball operations, to issue a statement confirming Griffin had fractured his right hand and had undergone a procedure that will require four to six weeks’ recovery.

“This conduct has no place in our organization and this incident does not represent who we are as a team,” the statement read. “We are conducting a full investigation with assistance from the NBA. At the conclusion of the investigation, appropriate action will be taken.”

Translation: See ya later, Blake. And see ya later, another Clippers season, after they had played well enough to pretty much lock themselves into fourth in the West and get homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They probably won’t get far enough this spring to make their usual disappointing second-round exit.

Then there was the announcement from the NHL that Ducks forward Shawn Horcoff, a veteran center prized for his leadership, had been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the performance-enhancing substances program operated by the league and the NHL Players’ Assn. He will forfeit $357,526.88 and get a referral to the NHL/NHLPA program for substance abuse and behavioral health for evaluation and possible treatment.


In a statement released via the players’ association, Horcoff said that while injured last fall he tried a treatment “that I believed would help speed up the healing process. Although I was unaware that this treatment was not permitted under NHL rules, that is no excuse whatsoever….I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I am sorry.”

He’s right about ignorance not being an excuse for the violation, but his being sorry won’t help the Ducks make up ground in their scramble to get into the playoffs. Horcoff, 37, is a former captain of the Edmonton Oilers, represented Canada at three World Championships, and is six games away from appearing in his 1,000th NHL game. He should have known better than to try a treatment without verifying whether it violated established policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Then there was testimony from a former girlfriend of Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov during a civil trial in Denver District Court that he had told her, “if we were not in America, I could have killed you,” after he allegedly kicked her and dragged her by her hair in a 2013 incident. The Denver Post reported Evgeniya Vavrinyuk was sometimes tearful Tuesday during her testimony about a man she had thought she “wanted to make a family with” before their relationship went sour.

Varlamov was arrested in 2013 on suspicion of felony kidnapping and assault, but prosecutors declined to file a kidnapping charge and later dropped a misdemeanor assault charge against him. He was never suspended by the NHL. For those who compare that to the NHL’s suspension of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, note the distinction that Varlamov was never charged with a crime. Voynov was charged with felony domestic violence but entered a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor count of corporal injury to a spouse and went to jail. He was later detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and went home to Russia in September with four years left on a six-year contract.

Varlamov, who had been named the NHL’s first star of the week for his excellence during a four-game winning streak, was expected to miss Colorado’s games Tuesday at San Jose and Wednesday against the Kings at Staples Center.

So went another grim day in the world of athletes behaving badly. Let’s hear it for puppies and the kids who get them and whose stories provide some welcome relief.

Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen