Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been suspended indefinitely due to ongoing issues with alcohol abuse, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association jointly announced Tuesday.
Watson was admitted into Stage 2 of the NHL’s substance abuse and behavioral health program, according to the two entities. They said the suspension was “related exclusively” to the alcohol issues.
Watson, 27, won’t be paid during the suspension.
This is Watson’s second suspension of the season. He missed the first 18 games after pleading no contest to a domestic assault charge in July. Watson was initially suspended for 27 games by the NHL, but an arbitrator reduced it to 18.
“The Nashville Predators are saddened and disappointed for Austin Watson and his family as he enters the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program for alcohol-related treatment,” the Predators said in a statement. “We are grateful for the NHL and NHLPA’s program and will cooperate in any way necessary as we continue to support Austin and his family as they go through this difficult time.
“Because of the personal nature of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program and our exclusive focus on Austin and his family’s well-being, there will be no further comment on this matter.”
In an Instagram post two weeks ago, Watson acknowledged personal battles with alcoholism, depression and anxiety, saying he had been sober for nearly two years before drinking again in May of 2017.
Watson received probation for the June 16 incident in which officers found him and girlfriend Jenn Guardino in a parked car near a gas station in Franklin, Tenn., just south of Nashville.
Watson acknowledged pushing Guardino during an argument. When officers noticed red marks on her chest, Guardino said Watson caused them, and he was arrested.
In October, Guardino took the blame for the incident, saying in her statement, “Austin Watson has never, and would never hit or abuse me. My behavior and state of intoxication led to the police being involved that day.”
Watson has seven goals and six assists (13 points) in 34 games for the Predators this season.
—Field Level Media