Alex Ovechkin and three other Washington Capitals, including Evgeni Kuznetsoz, were added to the NHL unavailable due to the COVID list, but not because they tested positive. The players, including Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, gathered in a hotel room without face coverings.
The team was fined $100,000 for the infraction, “which involved social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings,” according to the NHL statement.
While neither the team nor the league cited a specific date for the incident, it occurred either during Washington’s first two games in Buffalo or the last two games in Pittsburgh. On Saturday, Washington was in Pittsburgh, and PHN learned from sources that Washington had a team dinner Saturday evening.
However, there is no confirmation on when the transgression occurred.
Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, goalie Ilya Samsonov, and defenseman Dmitri Orlov were all placed on the list one day after losing to the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena, 5-4 in OT.
The Washington Capitals statement:
Our training staff has worked extremely hard to create a safe environment for our players and staff to be able to compete this season. We are disappointed by our players’ choice to interact in their hotel room and outside of team approved areas. We accept the NHL’s decision and once again will reiterate the COVID-19 Protocols in place to make sure the players are in full compliance moving forward.
I regret my choice to spend time together with my teammates in our hotel room and away from the locker room areas. I will learn from this experience.
There is considerable concern that hockey players are more easily able to transmit the virus while at the rink. A December report in the Washington Post theorized the drier air and less humidity on the ice allows the virus to spread more easily.
The Washington Post report on COVID at hockey rinks cited matters being investigated and was not a conclusive study.
As part of the new NHL COVID-19 protocols put in place for the 2020-21 NHL season, teams must secure an additional two hotel rooms on road trips in the event of a positive COVID-19 test. Players no longer share rooms. Players are only permitted to go to the rink and hotel on road trips. No other destinations, including bars, restaurants, clubs, are permitted.
Players are currently tested daily and will be for the first four weeks of the season. After the first month, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to review the situation to maintain daily testing or reduce it.
Per NHL protocols, players may gather in approved areas, but not in close quarters such as a hotel room without a mask. It is currently unclear if the players will be available for the Washington Capitals home opener on Friday.