Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin and three teammates were placed on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol-related absences list on Wednesday, as the league fined the team $100,000 for a violation of health and safety protocols.
Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov were all added to the daily list of players who are "unavailable to play or practice, in accordance with the league's COVID protocols."
This doesn't mean they've all tested positive for COVID-19, as players can end up on the list for reasons ranging from a positive test to "required quarantine as a high-risk close contact."
The NHL fined the Capitals for "social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings."
The players were in violation of NHL safety protocols for grouping together in a hotel room.
"Our training staff has worked extremely hard to create a safe environment for our players and staff to be able to compete this season," the Capitals said in a statement. "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."
NHL protocols state that 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.
"I regret my choice to spend time together with my teammates in our hotel room and away from the locker room areas," Ovechkin said in a statement. "I will learn from this experience."
Teams were put on notice before the season that failure to adhere to the NHL's COVID-19 protocols would result in penalties.
"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," the league said in its official COVID-19 protocols handbook.
It's unclear how long the players will be away from the team because their testing status and other classification under the protocols is unknown.
Concerns about compliance are reported to the team's "facility compliance officer" or directly to the NHL. Players also can contact their NHLPA divisional player representatives if they have concerns regarding compliance.
The Capitals (2-0-2) are in first place in the East Division, with Ovechkin tied for the team lead with five points. At 707 career goals, Ovechkin is one goal away from tying former Capital Mike Gartner for seventh all time in the league.
Kuznetsov is the team's No. 2 center, and Orlov is second on the team in average ice time (20:49). Samsonov was tabbed as the team's No. 1 goaltender entering the season.