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|Varlamov arrest dark cloud over promising start; Roy, Avalanche have rallied around goalie
05.11.2013. Crouse, KarenView Profile. National Post
During their drive to the Pepsi Center, there was much shimmering ground for two Colorado Avalanche fans to cover: the poise and production of the team's 18year old rookie forward, Nathan MacKinnon; the inspired play of the defence; the mad genius of the first year coach, Patrick Roy. And yet, as Keith Martin and his son-in-law drove to the Avalanche's game on Saturday night, they spoke mostly of the dark cloud shadowing the team's resurgence.
Off to an NHL best start under Roy, the mercurial Hall of Famer who backstopped Colorado to two Stanley Cups, the Avalanche were jolted out of their reverie last Wednesday by the arrest of their starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov on charges of second degree kidnapping and third degree assault in an incident Oct. 28 involving his girlfriend, evgeniya Vavrinyuk.
According to the police report, Varlamov, 25, kicked and stamped on Vavrinyuk, dragged her around the apartment they shared and threatened her upon returning home from a drinking binge. The report described bruises on her body consistent with a physical encounter.
Varlamov practised Wednesday, then turned himself in to the police. After spending the night in jail, he posted uS$5,000 bond and was released in time to join his teammates for a flight to Dallas, where he made his ninth start Friday, stopping 27 shots as the Avalanche beat the Dallas Stars in overtime. The Avalanche are now 121. The district attorney has not determined whether to charge Varlamov, creating a conflict for fans like Martin.
"My son-in-law and I had this conversation on the way here," said Martin, who was having a pregame beer at a restaurant next to the arena. "everyone has a right to due process. The guy's not been proven guilty, but do you reward somebody by starting him two days after he has spent the night in jail for accusations that, on the surface, are very disturbing?"
Although Varlamov remained a vital presence in the Avalanche lineup, Vavrinyuk retreated to the shadows after talking to reporters Thursday, fearing for her safety and the wellbeing of her relatives in Russia.
She said she had terminated a modelling contract at Varlamov's urging and followed him to the united States. Vavrinyuk also described multiple occasions of physical abuse by Varlamov, whom she said "turns into an animal" when he drinks and "thinks he can get away with anything."
On Friday in Dallas, Varlamov declined to comment but told reporters, "I've got such good teammates, so I don't think about what's happening."
Roy had his own domestic violence episode 13 years ago, when he was arrested after he pulled two doors off their hinges during an argument with his wife at the time. Roy was not charged, but the incident remains in his biography, to be dug up every time his nature turns destructive.
In his first NHLregular season game behind the bench, Roy lost his composure after his team defeated Anaheim, 61.He screamed at Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau and pounded on the glass partition that separated the teams' benches so forcefully, he nearly knocked it over.
The league fined Roy US$10,000 for his outburst, but not before he delivered a loud and clear message to his players: If they are wronged, he will defend them without fear of criticism.
So after assurances of innocence from Varlamov, Roy threw his support behind him.
"Varly is like me," Roy said, adding, "Let's not make a judgment before the process is done."
The Avalanche players have rallied around Varlamov, whose .875 winning percentage in October was the highest in franchise history, bettering the mark of .800 set by Roy in 2000.
After practice Thursday, centre Matt Duchene told Denver reporters: "We all love Varly in here. I can't say enough great things about him. I think we're all pretty confident this is going to get resolved pretty quickly."
So intense are the shared experiences of professional athletes in team sports, the family with whom they share a dressing room can take precedence over the people they actually live with. That the bonds formed as teammates can last a lifetime was evident Saturday when defenceman Adam Foote's No. 52 jersey was retired.
The hour long ceremony unfurled like a family reunion, with his former teammates Alexei Gusarov and Peter Forsberg travelling from europe to honour Foote, who was an integral part of the Avalanche's last championship team.
Fans, who stayed away in droves last season as Colorado finished last, filled the arena to the rafters, enthusiastically embracing their role in the tribute. The crowd of 18,152, a record for a hockey game at the arena, included Cynthia Quinlan, who expressed relief that Varlamov's backup, Jean Sebastien Giguere, was starting.
"I'm personally very glad that Jiggy's in net tonight so I can root for the Avs unreservedly," she said.
Quinlan said it was hard for her to celebrate the team's success given the serious allegations facing Varlamov.
"I don't think anyone wants to judge him too soon," she said, adding, "If you're an Avs fan, it can really knock you for a loop."