Flames president Brian Burke says team has planned for Ray Rice-type scenarios
This week Burke discussed the topic of how his club would handle a domestic violence incident like the Ray Rice episode (and a handful of subsequent incidents) that have brought the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell under intense scrutiny in recent months.
"What would we do if one of our players did this? How would we react?" Burke asked rhetorically in response to a tough question lobbed at him at the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., this week per The Associated Press. "Every time we have an issue in another sport, we dry run it internally. We’ve done it a lot the past week.
"So in the Rice case, when there’s a video, we don’t have to guess what happened there. That case, we’d say ‘We’re done with this player. He’s done with us.’ We’re going to do the right thing first."
Burke worked in the NHL head office as the director of Hockey Operations in the '90s, and has extensive experience working in player discipline. He implied that while players deserve due process in such circumstances, athletes employed by his teams will be held to a higher standard.
"The notion (is) that ‘I get paid to fight on a hockey rink so that same level of violence is acceptable on the street or in my home,'" Burke said. "And if a player can’t separate them, then the player doesn't deserve to earn professional-athlete wages.
"These jobs pay well," Burke continued. "There are lots of people who will do them if you don’t want to do them on those terms."
As for the league itself, Commissioner Gary Bettman has the authority - in cases where a player "has been or is guilty of conduct (whether during or outside the playing season) that is detrimental to or against the welfare of the League or the game of hockey" - to suspend or expel that player for a definite or indefinite period of time, or to cancel a standard player contract that an NHL player has entered into with a member club.
That authority wasn't exercised in the case of Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who was arrested on kidnapping and domestic assault charges this past fall. In Varlamov's case, he started for the Avalanche just two days after his arrest.
"At this point, we are monitoring the developing legal situation and do not intend to intervene in that process," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said at the time. "There may come a point in time where we feel it is either necessary or appropriate to take a different approach, but that's not where we are right now. We are and will remain in close contact with the club, and will see how the underlying facts unfold."
Varlamov's case was eventually thrown out after prosecutors asked a Denver judge to dismiss the case. "That's not to say we don't believe our victim," district attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said in December. "Most of the time, additional investigation strengthens our case. This time ... it became clear we didn't have a belief we could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt."
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