Veteran and returning players on the Kings didn’t take the ice at Toyota Sports Center today, though it remained an important day in the reinforcing of a mental and behavioral equilibrium.
Eschewing the photo-friendly nature of more traditional – and important – community relations work for a more constructive approach, the Kings on Wednesday commenced their new “Conduct Awareness Training Initiatives” when players met with trained instructors from Peace Over Violence, a volunteer-driven organization deigned to build “healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence.”
“Being a good citizen, as we’re learning, isn’t how many hospital visits you do and all this stuff,” General Manager Dean Lombardi said. “The times can be branding if you don’t have the other stuff in order first. And I think that’s what we skipped here.”
He is referring to the domestic violence arrest, charge, and subsequent voluntary departure from the United States by former King Slava Voynov, which was followed by the drug-related arrests of former Kings Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll. The team’s initiatives, announced Monday, will be designed to educate and prevent future wrongdoings through educational sessions and actions that “reflect the values and principles of the franchise.”
“We’ve kind of had these [prior] legal things where the guy comes in and speaks. It goes in one ear and out the other,” Lombardi said. “To me, if you’re talking development outside these walls, it has to be as the development inside the walls. You don’t develop a guy by saying, ‘Come in in the one session for two hours.’ It’s got to be a little every day, and that’s the way I envisioned this being set up. Not every day, per se, but it is about relationship building, constant reminders, and we’ve got a lot of things I’m thinking of that just keeps reminding me every day.”
The domestic violence educational initiatives were also backed by the hiring of Brantt Myrhes to serve the club in a Player Assistance position. Myhres, who previously had received a lifetime ban from the NHL after multiple failed drug tests, has been clean and sober for seven years, and in recent seasons had approached professional sports teams about assisting as an in-house advisor. Lombardi said that Myhres had first approached him about three years ago.
“Actually, reflecting back on some of the things he told me, I guess I should’ve listened, but unfortunately it takes something like that to happen to open your eyes and wake up,” Lombardi said. “He was ahead of the curve.”
Though the initiatives are in their infancy, from prior conversations Lombardi had with the players, it appears as though a clear message has been received.
“I had a number of talks with them in the summer which were really hard. I think you go through the phases, too. You go angry, and then it’s, ‘OK, we’ve got to solve this,’ and then you come up with a game plan, and then you’ve got to make sure you talk to them. ‘Are you on board with this?’ And then, like I said, we had the meeting last week, and we actually start our first session [Wednesday] on domestic violence,” Lombardi said.
“I really think they feel, judging from that meeting and the personal ones, I do think they’ve taken this to heart. And this is their responsibility. When this happens, you just don’t point the fingers at those players. Because the whole object here is they know everything. Darryl and I can talk to them as much as they want, but in the end, it’s about them being responsible to each other. That’s the ultimate message. You don’t fool players. That’s the goal. Just like they’re taught to stick up for themselves at the rink there and what they’ve built there, it’s the same thing off the rink. You know what’s going on, and you better confront that, guy, and handle it. We’re going to get Brantt here to maybe show you the way a little, but that’s the objective. If it gets to my desk or Darryl’s, it’s too late. You guys take care of this. That’s the ultimate goal, is to have the camaraderie that they fight for each other – putting a lid on that stuff right away is the same as fighting off the ice for each other. We’ll get there.”