Rocky Mountain Lowlight
Clearly, here in Toronto we have our own troubling civic issues involving high profile public figures we need to focus on.
And may I say, as a 28-year employee of the Toronto Star, I've never been prouder. The fact Kevin Donovan and I started out together in 1985 as cub reporters in The Star's Scarborough bureau is, on a day like this, a distinction in which I have great pride.
But let's allow the reporters and columnists and editors handling that monster story handle it, and turn our attention to a sports story that is equally troubling, and yet equally tricky in how it can be effectively and fairly dealt with.
Here's what we know. The Colorado Avalanche are 10-1 despite giving up lots and lots of shots just like the Maple Leafs. Their new coach Patrick Roy has been a smash hit. They can't fill their buiding - less than 14,000 earlier this week - and are trying to rebuild their brand in a town they once used to own with an exciting young team including Canada's newest star hockey export, Nathan MacKinnon. They also made an intriguing trade on Thursday, sending a player they seemed to really value, Steve Downie, east to Philly in order to acquire a veteran winger in Max Talbot.
That's the context.
Layered on top of all that is the fact that Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov has been charged with assaulting his girlfriend and kidnapping. Varlamov's father has denied any wrongdoing on behalf of his son; the girlfriend has tearfully told a story of being kicked, stomped, dragged by her hair and kicked out of their apartment by an alleged drunken Varlamov.
Pretty ugly story. This will become a he said, she said issue, and these domestic assault incidents are rarely clear as they are usually the product of a complicated, troubled relationship that may or may not be on the rocks.
The Avs, as an organization, have some experience with this. More than a decade ago Roy was charged with assaulting his wife. A few days later, the charges were dropped, but the story lingered.
Varlamov, meanwhile, posted $5,000 bail on Thursday and immediately re-joined the team. He's expected to be in uniform this weekend.
Innocent until proven guilty is one thing. But does having Varlamov in gear really make sense for the Avs or Varlamov?
Unless the girlfriend, Evgeniya Vavrinyuk, recants her entire story in very short order, this story is going to be a cloud around Varlamov and the team for some time.
With the NFL Broncos gunning for a Super Bowl and NBA Nuggets just getting started, perhaps the Avs believe they can buckle down weather this storm, just wait it out, and proceed with the season as the legal process goes forward. That seems to be the path down which the hockey team is heading.
But pro sports teams, especially those with iffy fan bases, have to be more sensitive to these issues that they once did. We just finished a month in which pink was in vogue for all sports in honor of the fight against breast cancer. Teams have to be seen as being sensitive to women's issues, at least to some degree, although I'm not sure domestic violence is any more a women's issue than a men's issue.
The Avs might want to look at giving Varlamov a few days off - a few weeks? - to sort all this out. That doesn't seem likely with Roy at the helm, an individual who likes to take on all situations by charging headlong into the fray.
Varlamov has his reputation to protect. Plus he's having a sensational year so far and hopes to play on the Russian Olympic team in Sochi, an athletic competition that is already drenched in some controversy over the way in which Russia is dealing with certain social issues.
Should he go? What's the right thing to do? Who can we believe in this story? Who's lying?
Sorry. Which story are we talking about again?