Slava Voynov, in immigration custody, seeks return to Russia and wishes Kings success
The long-running Slava Voynov saga appeared to end abruptly when the Kings defenseman announced Wednesday he would attempt to return to his native Russia, instead of facing the prospect of a lengthy deportation process by immigration authorities.
This means Voynov, who entered a no contest plea in Los Angeles Superior Court to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in July, agreed not to contest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s efforts to repatriate him to Russia. Voynov had been held at an unspecified detention facility after he was taken into custody by ICE on Sept. 2. Immigration limbo could have lasted several months.
Through his agent, Voynov disclosed he had informed the NHL, the NHL Players Assn. and the Kings of his intention to return to Russia with his family.
“I sincerely apologize to those in and around the game of hockey, who have been affected by my situation, and I also wish the players of the LA Kings success in the future,” Voynov said in the statement.
The Kings later revealed they had planned to end their association with Voynov, having decided to terminate his contract. Voynov had played two seasons of a six-year, $25-million deal, which would have run through the 2018-19 season. The money is now off the Kings’ books, team executives later said in a conference call.
Their self-imposed deadline to terminate the contract was Sept. 17, the day before NHL training camps open.
“Recently, it became evident to us that our conclusion to this process would be to terminate Mr. Voynov’s standard player’s contract,” the Kings said in a statement. “However, Mr. Voynov’s announcement today of his intention to leave the United States and return to Russia makes the termination unnecessary.
“As we have publicly stated since Mr. Voynov’s arrest last year, the Kings organization will not tolerate domestic violence. As part of that commitment, we will soon announce a series of new conduct awareness training initiatives that reflect the values and principles central to our franchise.”
Dan Beckerman, the president and chief executive of the team’s parent company, AEG, emphasized that point in a conference call. Beckerman made a reference to Voynov and two other players who were arrested on suspicion of drug violations in recent months, Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards, noting that, “Those three players are not on our team.”
“These are team decisions from top to bottom,” Beckerman said.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said on the conference call the last seven to eight months have opened his eyes to a lot of things. He vowed the organization would be more proactive and he had been “negligent in this area.”
Voynov’s decision did not surprise Teddy Chadwick, an immigration lawyer licensed to practice in California and Wisconsin.
“A lot of people with less waiting for them in their country make the same choice, if only to get out of custody,” he said.
Chadwick thought Voynov could be en route to Russia within the next week or two depending on travel documents and transportation arrangements.
An ICE spokeswoman said the timetable for formal removal can differ from person to person. In this case, the deportee’s country (Russia) will need to provide documentation the person is allowed to return.
His playing future — even in Russia — remains murky because his Kings contract has not been terminated and rules governing international federation agreements with the NHL could be an issue. His hometown team, Chelyabinsk of the KHL, retains his rights and officials had been quoted in July as saying they would welcome his return. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said it was a little “too soon to deal in hypotheticals,” when asked whether Voynov could play in the KHL.
Voynov last played for the Kings on Oct. 19. The case stemmed from an incident that started at a team Halloween party and continued at the Redondo Beach home of Voynov and his wife, Marta Varlamova. Redondo Beach police department reports stated he pushed her into a flat-screen television after he choked and kicked her. The NHL suspended him with pay in October. He was suspended by the Kings without pay in June after injuring himself in an unspecified non-hockey incident.
The couple maintained, through their respective attorneys, that the incident had been an accident. Shortly after entering the no-contest plea, Voynov served his time at the Seal Beach Police Detention Center. He had been allowed to spend his days at the Kings’ facility in El Segundo under the terms of a work-release program.
Voynov, a member of the Kings’ two Stanley Cup champion teams, had been a familiar figure around El Segundo during his league-imposed suspension this last season. The Kings were fined $100,000 by the league when he took part in a morning skate. He was at the El Segundo facility only a few days before ICE took him to a detention center, far away from Seal Beach.
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa
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