There’s no way to sugarcoat the news that Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday.
“This is very discouraging for Voynov,” says Michael McCann, SI.com’s legal expert. “He now faces the real possibility of deportation from the U.S. and, consequently, the end of his NHL career.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the story, Voynov was taken into custody by ICE agents after being released from the Seal Beach Police Detention Center and transferred to an unspecified detention facility pending a hearing by an immigration judge. He is being held without bond, a common practice in cases in which the agency believes the subject is a danger to the community or a flight risk.
“The facts relating to Voynov and his abuse of his wife, Marta Varlamova, are very disturbing,” he says. "It appears U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement finds them disturbing enough to seek a hearing before an immigration judge who will evaluate Voynov’s legal status to remain in the U.S. on a visa.”
“This process will likely take months and, even if it is ultimately determined that Voynov can stay in the U.S., waiting for a hearing and decision could prevent him from playing at the start of the 2015-16 NHL season,” McCann says.
“There [also] is a separate legal issue of whether Canadian immigration officials will let Voynov enter Canada to play games there,” McCann said. “Even if Voynov can remain in the U.S., Canada has the right under its laws to deny entry to those who have broken laws in the U.S.”
The Kings are scheduled to play 11 games in Canada this season.
While the action in the courts take precedence, Voynov’s immediate professional standing will simmer on the back burner. He remains suspended, a situation that won’t change until he has a chance to meet with league officials. That appears unlikely to happen any time soon, but there is a slim chance that the Kings could take further action on their own.
“The Kings are now more capable of terminating Voynov’s contract if the team chooses,” McCann says. “We know that the Kings terminated Mike Richards’ contract even before he was charged with a crime. The Kings, however, may be reluctant to terminate Voynov’s contract given that Voynov is 25 and presumably entering the prime of his career.”
But at this point, any decision the team makes is essentially for show. They, like the league and Voynov himself, are now at the mercy of the court.
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