Justin K. Aller/NHLI via Getty Alex Ovechkin
The Washington Capitals were fined $100,000 for violating the NHL's COVID-19 protocols.
In a statement posted Wednesday, the NHL said that the team was facing the fine due to violating protocol that involved "social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings."
In addition to the $100,000 fine, several players on the team were added to the "protocol absences list" and will likely miss the next few games: winger and captain Alex Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and goalie Ilya Samsonov, according to CBS Sports.
On Thursday, coach Peter Laviolette said the earliest they could return is Jan. 30, USA Today reported.
The team later released a statement to Twitter, expressing disappointment.
"Our training staff has worked extremely hard to create a safe environment for our players and staff to be able to complete this season," the statement read. "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, 34, also apologized in a personal statement shared by the team, writing, "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 more from this experience."
According to ESPN, prior to the start of the season earlier this month, teams were told 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, the outlet reported.
Justin K. Aller/NHLI via Getty
This is the first instance of Capitals players appearing on the NHL's COVID-19 list, which can include those who test positive, have a potential exposure or face quarantine requirements.
The 2021 NHL season kicked off on Jan. 13 and has been reduced to 56 games due to the pandemic. The playoffs are tentatively scheduled to run from May until July under a 16-team format with the top four teams from each division.
Washington is currently 2-0-2 in the 2021 season and is scheduled to play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.