Capitals fined for breaking NHL’s COVID-19 protocols: ‘We are disappointed by our players’

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The NHL announced on Wednesday that it had fined the Capitals $100,000 for violating the league’s COVID‑19 protocols. The issue involved social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings, according to a short statement.

Soon after the team had four members — Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Ovechkin, and Ilya Samsonov — on the NHL’s list of players unavailable to practice or play in a game due to COVID protocols.

Wednesday night the team released statements further enlightening which rules were broken.

“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,” said the statement from Ovechkin, the Capitals’ captain and star forward.

The team added a note of its own: “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.”

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While the four players are on the COVID protocol-related absences list, it does not necessarily mean there was a positive test among the group. Those on the list could also be sitting out due to being a high-risk close contact, having an unconfirmed positive test, COVID-19-like symptoms or travel-related quarantine. 

Prior to the start of the season, the NHL published multiple comprehensive protocol books outlining what was and what was not acceptable conduct during the season. While it included information regarding players wearing face coverings and maintaining at least six-feet of distancing, it also included a section on club travel protocol. As part of that protocol, it clearly states: no individual shall permit guests or other personnel in their room (with the exception of housekeeping or engineering staff, as needed, which services shall be provided while individuals are not present in the room).

The Capitals were off on Wednesday (it was a previously scheduled off day) after playing Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. They are not scheduled to play again until Friday when they host the Sabres in the home opener to begin a six-game homestand. Whether or not that game, or the next few, will go on has not been determined.

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The news comes a day after the Hurricanes-Predators game was postponed following as four Canes players joined Jordan Staal on the team’s COVID protocol-related absences list. On Wednesday Carolina’s games through Saturday, Jan. 23 were been postponed. The Stars had their first four games postponed after 17 payers tested positive during training camp.

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