The NHL’s COVID-19 protocols are already causing a stir — and the season is not even two weeks old.
A day after the Washington Capitals were fined $100,000 and saw four players — Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov — be deemed unavailable to play, coach Peter Laviolette told reporters there was a positive test and all four, who are now quarantining, would be out at least four games. He did not identify who tested positive.
The four players were together in a hotel room, maskless, on a recent road trip. The league does not permit “social interactions among team presenters who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings.”
“We knew the rules,” Laviolette said. “We aren’t sitting here saying we were unaware.”
Based upton Laviolette’s timeframe, the four players could return Jan. 30, though he said they would be reviewed.
Ovechkin’s wife, Nastya, took to social media to express her frustration with the league’s protocols.
“Of course, only Russian players of Washington Capitals were together in the same hotel room,” she said. “Of course, all of the other NHL players, when playing away, separating themselves from their teammates. Of course, you can’t catch the virus when you and your teammates sit together on the bench, hug each other when they score a goal, or when they are all together in the lounge or locker room. Players can’t get infected when they are at the restaurants, supermarkets, malls, etc..
“Virus only works in a hotel room.”
Nastya said that Ovechkin and Orlov have antibodies, but “unfortunately, not everyone is competent in their (antibodies’) value and properties.
“The one who came up with this rule, obviously is very logical!” she said.
Ovechkin issued an apology through the Capitals on Wednesday night, saying, “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.”
Forward Nicklas Backstrom said on Thursday that the team is aware of what is allowed. “We’re under tight protocol here,” he said. “We’re trying to do the right things here. I think we had a pretty good idea what the upcoming season was gonna be.”
While the Capitals are the first team to be penalized for breaking protocol, the league has had to alter its schedule multiple times. The Dallas Stars had up to 17 players test positive, and are set to play their first game Friday. The Florida Panthers have played two games, while the Carolina Hurricanes have had to postpone three. Washington is scheduled to play in Buffalo on Friday.
“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 Wednesday. “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.”
Contributing: Mike Brehm
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alex Ovechkin’s wife rips NHL as Capitals without star for four games