NHL suspends Austin Watson 27 games for 'unacceptable off-ice conduct' following domestic-violence incident
The NHL has suspended Nashville Predators forward 27 games as a result of a domestic-violence incident that occurred this summer, the league announced on Wednesday.
Watson, 26, will miss the entire preseason and the first 27 games of the 2018-19 regular season after pleading no contest to a charge of domestic assault stemming from. Watson was arrested on suspicion of assault at a gas station in Franklin, Tennessee after a police officer was flagged down by a witness. Watson told police that he had been engaged in an argument with his girlfriend and admitted to pushing her during the altercation.
Watson’s girlfriend had red marks on her chest, and she said that Watson was responsible for them. She also told police that “sometimes he gets handsy,” although the police report did not elaborate on the details of that statement.
Shortly after Watson’s plea, the NHL announced that they would launch an investigation into the incident and determine what disciplinary measures would be appropriate.
On Wednesday, the league released a statement on their ruling.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman levied the suspension under Rule 18-A of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Commissioner’s ruling came following an investigation by the League and an in-person hearing in New York on Friday, Sept. 7. The investigation and hearing were conducted, pursuant to the CBA, to determine the relevant facts and circumstances relating to a June 16, 2018, incident involving Austin Watson and his domestic partner. The incident ultimately resulted in Watson pleading no contest to a charge of domestic assault on July 24, 2018.
“I have determined that Nashville Player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Today’s ruling, while tailored to the specific facts of this case and the individuals involved, is necessary and consistent with the NHL’s strongly held view that it cannot and will not tolerate this and similar types of conduct.”
The NHLPA has announced plans to file an appeal on Watson’s behalf.
Watson, who was a first-round pick in 2010, recently signed a three-year, $3.3 million extension with the Predators prior to last season. He had a career-high 14 goals and 19 points in 2017-2018. He also recorded eight points during the Predators’ playoff run, which ended at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets in the second round.