Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews suspended for missing All-Star Game

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin and Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews are two of the biggest stars in the NHL and were selected to play in the 2016 All-Star game in Nashville this weekend.

Both players have decided to opt out of the game (Ovechkin to injury; Toews to illness) and as a result will have to miss their team's first game back after the All-Star break.

The league not only announced on Thursday they will be replaced on the roster by Evgeny Kuznetsov and James Neal, but that Ovechkin and Toews have also been suspended for one game for missing the All-Star game.

Per league rules, any player that is voted into the game or named to the roster and does not play in the game for any reason receives a mandatory one-game suspension that must be served their team's game immediately preceding or following the All-Star game.

Ovechkin will miss the Capitals' Feb. 2 game against the Florida Panthers, while Toews will miss the Blackhawks' game against the Colorado Avalanche the same night.

Ovechkin removed himself from the All-Star game on Wednesday night due to a lower body injury.

"We made this difficult decision after taking into consideration what we felt was best for Alex and our organization," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement just after the announcement. "Alex has been an incredible ambassador for our team and the League but we believe it is better if he uses this time to heal and ideally be completely healthy for the duration of the season."

Toews has been under the weather recently and did not play in the third period of the team's Tuesday game against the Carolina Hurricanes as a result.

Blackhawks team trainer Michael Terry said Toews remains symptomatic on Thursday. 

"At this time, rest over the break is most important for him to properly recover and be fully healthy heading into the rest of the regular season," said Terry in a team statement.

This is not the first time some of the NHL's biggest names have earned a suspension for skipping the game. Detroit Red Wings teammates Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom earned one-game suspensions for missing the 2009 game, while Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had to miss a game after removing himself from last year's All-Star Game in Columbus.

Given the Capitals and Blackhawks current place in the standings, being forced to play one game without Ovechkin and Toews isn't going to be an issue. It could be big for the teams they are playing, though, as both the Panthers and Avalanche fight for playoff spots and look to pick up two important points in the standings.

It's easy to understand why the league feels the need to hand out some form of punishment because it doesn't want to have all of its best players skipping the game that, in theory, is supposed to highlight its best players. 

It's also easy to understand why players like Ovechkin and Toews (and their teams) put a much bigger priority on the success of their team and being ready to play in the second half of the season.

Alex Ovechkin will have to sit out one game for the Washington Capitals. (USATSI)
Alex Ovechkin will have to sit out one game for the Washington Capitals. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Writer

Adam Gretz has been writing about the NHL and taking an analytical approach to the game since the start of the 2008 season. A member of the PHWA since 2015, he has spent more than three years covering... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
CBS Sports Shop
NHL Draft Gear
Our Latest Stories