(CNN)The National Hockey League has handed a 21-game unpaid suspension to Evander Kane of the San Jose Sharks after an investigation into whether he submitted a fraudulent Covid-19 vaccination card, according to Front Office Sports and ESPN, which cited unnamed sources.
The NHL found “an established violation of, and lack of compliance with, the NHL/NHLPA COVID-19 Protocol,” according to the reports. The NHLPA is the league’s players’ association. NHL players are not required to be vaccinated but are highly encouraged to do so. Players choosing to remain unvaccinated are subject to more stringent protocols this season. According to the NHL’s Covid-19 protocols, unvaccinated players could be subject to suspension and forfeit of pay for every day they are unable to participate, if the player tests positive for coronavirus or is deemed a close contact of a Covid-19 positive case. By comparison, a fully vaccinated player who tests positive or is a close contact will be treated as a hockey injury and will still be paid. Last week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said there are four players who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.Read MoreThe league also announced that its concurrent investigation into domestic abuse allegations against Kane made by his estranged wife could not be substantiated.Kane issued a statement through the NHL Players’ Association.”I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols,” Kane said. “I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for.””During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future,” Kane said. “When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey.”Kane’s suspension will keep him off the ice until at least November 30, during which time he will miss more than a quarter of the NHL’s 82-game season.Correction: An earlier edition of this story incorrectly described the NHL’s Covid-19 protocols. The league does not require players to be vaccinated but highly encourages them to do so. According to the NHL’s Covid-19 protocols, unvaccinated players could be subject to suspension and forfeit of pay for every day they are unable to participate, if the player tests positive for coronavirus or is deemed a close contact of a Covid-19 positive case.