Ovechkin, who is chasing NHL legend Wayne Gretzky’s goals record, joined fellow center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov on the league’s sanctions list.
The compatriots are believed to have gathered in one hotel room in a violation of Covid-19 restrictions requiring all players to stay alone in a single room, with no guests allowed except for hotel staff.
The players have been sanctioned by the league for “social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings.”
This is the first time the Capitals players appeared on the league’s protocol list this season, which includes those who test positive, have a potential exposure or face quarantine requirements.
“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.”
Ovechkin released his own statement. “I regret my choice to spend time together with my teammates in our hotel room and away from the locker room areas,” he said. “I will learn from this experience.”
The players’ inclusion on the list means that the Russian quartet will not be allowed to train with the rest of their teammates, although it remains unclear whether they will be allowed to play Washington’s next game against the Buffalo Sabres which is scheduled for Friday.
Many fans were confused by the ruling. “OK, so they can hug and high-five after a goal, practice, sit next to each other on a bench and so on,” observed one. “Such total insanity bullsh*t.”
Another claimed: “They didn’t have someone come and visit them, and are just as likely to spread it – if not more likely, based on studies about the spread in hockey arenas in general – to teammates during the game.
“They shouldn’t break the rules, obviously, but it’s a really dumb rule.”