The NHL season is just getting started, and COVID-19 issues are starting to cause problems.  One might think that the NHL front office would rather take in $100,000 in gate receipts instead of fining the Washington Capitals for COVID-19 health and safety violations, but that’s exactly what they did.  It is unclear just who is going to be left for the Capitals to take to the ice tomorrow night against the Buffalo Sabers.

Capitals’ COVID-19 Conundrum

Alex Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and defenseman Dmitry Orlov, as well as goaltender Ilya Samsonov, were all added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol-related absences list on Wednesday when the league fined the team $100,000 for violations of health and safety protocols.

The sanctions do not mean that all of these guys ended up testing positive for COVID-19; players can be placed on that list for reasons ranging from a positive test to a “required quarantine as a high-risk close contact.”  Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov and Samsonov were all added to the daily list of players who are listed as “unavailable to play or practice, in accordance with the league’s COVID protocols.”

It seems that the players involved were in violation of the NHL safety protocols for grouping together in a hotel room.  As a result, the NHL has fined the Capitals for “social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings.”

Caps Upset With Players

In a statement to the press, a Capitals rep said, “We are disappointed by our players’ choice to interact in their hotel room and outside of team approved areas. Our training staff has worked extremely hard to create a safe environment for our players and staff to be able to compete this season.”

All of us are suffering from COVID fatigue in some form or another but these professional hockey players knew what they were up to even if they were just a little stir-crazy.  Even so, this sounds like a hard line to hold, “each member of a team’s traveling party ‘will be required to stay in a single occupancy room, and no individual shall permit guests or other personnel in their room,’” other than hotel staff.

NHL Teams Knew What To Expect

According to the NHL league office, all teams were put on notice before the season that failure to adhere to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols would result in penalties.  The league said in its official NHL handbook on COVID-19 protocols, “Established violations of, and/or lack of compliance with, the COVID-19 protocol will result in significant club and individual sanctions, including potential forfeiture of games, fines and reimbursements of expenses, loss of draft choices, and/or ineligibility for participation in training activities.”

“I will learn from this experience” said Ovechkin in a statement to the press.  “I regret my choice to spend time together with my teammates in our hotel room and away from the locker room areas.”

More Games Face COVID-19 Postponements

Yet another NHL game has had to be postponed due to COVID-19 issues.  The game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Nashville Predators has been set back to a date yet to be determined, marking the fifth time this season, which only began a week ago, that a game has had to be postponed.

The league put out a statement following the latest postponement, “The decision was made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game-day personnel, and in consultation with medical experts.”

The Canes’ games have all been postponed through at least Saturday now that five additional players have made the NHL’s COVID-19 absence list, the league announced this Wednesday.  Two games were called off against the Florida Panthers and the Nashville Predators.

The league office added, “As an appropriate precaution, the team’s training facilities have been closed, effective immediately, and will remain closed for Players until further notice.”