Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson received a 27-game suspension without pay from the NHL on Wednesday after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge in July.
The charge involved an incident that occurred in June with Watson’s girlfriend. The prosecutor said the woman had asked for a dismissal of the case, but prosecutors proceeded because there were witnesses.
Watson’s suspension will also cover the preseason. He can rejoin the Predators for their Dec. 3 game against Buffalo.
“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,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
Watson, 26, was arrested June 16 by police in Franklin, Tenn. Police said he assaulted his girlfriend, who gave birth to their child in April, at a gas station. Police said the two argued and he admitted to pushing the woman.
“The Nashville Predators supported and worked closely with the National Hockey League investigation regarding Austin Watson,” the team said in a statement. “During his suspension, we wish Austin, Jenn and their baby the best as they take the necessary steps to move forward, with the support of the Nashville Predators, the NHL, the NHLPA, and all the collective resources they can provide.
“Our commitment to AMEND is the same today as it was when we partnered six years ago with the mission of making Nashville the safest city for girls and women. We will continue to evolve and grow our programming to work toward this shared objective.”
As a result of the plea in Williamson County General Sessions court, Watson received three months of probation and is required to complete a 26-week batterer prevention course. If he violates probation, he could spend up to one year in jail. If he abides by all stipulations, the charge will be expunged from his record.
Watson was a first-round pick of the Predators in the 2010 draft and signed a three-year, $3.3 million contract a year ago. He scored a career-high 14 goals in the 2017-18 season.
Unlike other major sports, the NHL does not have a specific domestic abuse policy and judges incidents separately.
—Field Level Media