The NHL has suspended Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson for the entire preseason and the first 27 games of the regular season for “unacceptable off-ice conduct.”
The suspension comes after a league investigation into an off-season incident involving Watson and his girlfriend. In June, Watson was arrested at a gas station outside of Nashville after having allegedly struck his girlfriend. He was then charged with misdemeanor domestic assault, to which he entered a no contest plea. He received three months’ probation, 26 weeks of a batterer intervention course, a treatment program for drugs and alcohol and a promise to maintain peaceful contact with his girlfriend.
Since he entered a no contest plea, the NHL launched their own investigation.
“I have determined that Nashville player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “(Wednesday’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 team also offered support to Watson, his girlfriend and their child.
“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,” the Predators said in a statement. “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.”
The NHLPA will file an appeal on behalf of Watson which could be submitted as early as next week..
Watson is eligible to return Dec. 3 against the Buffalo Sabres.