NHL player Austin Watson has been suspended for more than 20 games after a domestic assault arrest earlier this year.
Following an investigation, Watson, a 26-year-old forward for the Nashville Predators, has been suspended without pay for all preseason games, as well as the first 27 games of the upcoming season, the NHL announced this week. The release cited “unacceptable off-ice conduct.”
Watson was arrested at a gas station on June 16 after a witness flagged down an officer to report a possible domestic violence situation, according to the Tennessean. Watson told authorities that he and his girlfriend, with whom he shares a child, were arguing, the outlet reports. The arresting officer noticed red marks on the woman’s chest, and Watson later admitted to pushing her.
Watson’s 31-year-old partner also told police that he occasionally gets “handsy” with her, but the police report obtained by the Tennessean did not elaborate on the meaning of her statement. Watson pleaded no contest to a charge of domestic assault in August and was given three months of probation, which included 26 weeks of a batterer intervention course as well as an inpatient treatment program for drugs and alcohol, the Tennessean reports.
The decision to suspend Watson was made following an independent investigation by the league and an in-person hearing on September 7, according to Wednesday’s release.
“I have determined that Nashville Player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in Wednesday’s statement. “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 NHL Players’ Association intends to file an appeal on behalf of Watson, ESPN reports.
Watson and several of his teammates teamed up with the YWCA last year to take part in a domestic violence awareness campaign, The Washington Post reports. Watson was one of many athletes featured in a video called “Unsilence the Violence,” where he could be seen with an “x” made from yellow tape over his mouth. According to The Post, the YWCA pulled the video from their website shortly after Watson’s June arrest.
According to the ESPN, Watson will be eligible to return to the ice for the Nashville Predators’ Dec. 3 game against the Buffalo Sabres.
[Photo: Austin Watson participates in drills during warm-up before National Hockey League action between the Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators on February 8, 2018, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. By Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images]