‘I made a mistake’: Hockey star promises to persist with counseling after copping whopping 21-game punishment for Covid rule break

San Jose Sharks have described themselves as "extremely disappointed" by a breach that has earned groveling Player of the Year Evander Kane one of the heaviest punishments handed out to an athlete for a Covid violation.

NHL star Kane, who is involved in a high-profile divorce with wife Deanna, voiced his sorrow after being suspended without pay for 21 games for breaking Covid protocol, keeping him out of action until the end of November.

The league said on September 22 that there was no evidence to support gambling claims first mooted by Kane's estranged wife, adding that two additional investigations into Kane had been opened.

A concurrent investigation into allegations of domestic abuse made against Kane by Deanna could not be substantiated, the NHL stated.

"I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols," the 30-year-old responded.

"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.

"When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey."

The Sharks, who will miss the player responsible for 49 points last season, said they were "encouraged by Evander's commitment to moving forward" but "extremely disappointed by his disregard for the health and safety protocols put in place".

Kane's suspension is thought to be the joint sixth-longest ever handed to an NHL player.

Los Angeles Kings star Slava Voynov earned arguably the toughest punishment awarded when he was suspended indefinitely after being arrested on domestic violence charges in 2014.

His team has replaced him with William Eklund, the seventh overall pick in this year's draft, and Jonathan Dahlen, a second-round pick for the Senators in 2016.

While the Sharks appear to have moved on while Kane is suspended, his long-term future in a locker room where he is widely reported to now be viewed with hostility is less certain.

Fans also gave a mixed reception to the news, with some suggesting that they would like to see Kane released from his seven-year contract, which has four seasons remaining.

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