The NHL expressed disappointment on Friday that a 27-game suspension for domestic violence issued to Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson was reduced to 18 games one day earlier.
Independent arbitrator Shyam Das made the decision Thursday to trim the length of Watson’s suspension.
“The NHL remains committed to continuing to do what we believe is right. And, in this regard, we intend to continue our steadfast efforts to ensure everyone in our League is adequately educated and sensitized to the importance of this serious social issue,” the league said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to adhere to and enforce — through firm discipline as necessary — the standards of personal conduct we feel are appropriate for our League.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman issued the 27-game suspension without pay to Watson last month. On Thursday, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association jointly announced the reduction.
Watson was suspended after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge in July.
The 6-foot-4 forward will be allowed to rejoin the team for a Nov. 15 game at Arizona.
“We are aware of its reduction to 18 games,” said the Predators in a statement after Thursday’s announcement. “As previously stated, our focus has and will continue to be the health and well-being of Austin and his family.”
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, 26, was arrested June 16 by police in Franklin, Tenn. Police said he assaulted his girlfriend, who gave birth to their child in April. Police said the two argued at a gas station and he admitted to pushing the woman.
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