Austin Watson Suspended 27 Games by NHL for Unacceptable Off-Ice Conduct

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2018

Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson (51) plays against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. The Predators won 5-4 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The NHL has suspended Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson for the first 27 games of the 2018-19 season because of "unacceptable off-ice conduct," Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reported Wednesday. 

Johnston noted Watson pleaded no contest to a domestic assault charge in July. He also shared NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's statement on the suspension:

"I have determined that Nashville player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner. 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."

Katie Strang of The Athletic reported the NHL Players' Association will file an appeal of the penalty.

Paul Skrbina of the Tennessean noted the NHL does not currently have a specific domestic violence policy with automatic punishments, in contrast to the NFL, NBA and MLB.

According to Skrbina, Watson was arrested in June and released on $4,500 bond. He was sentenced to 26 weeks of batterer intervention and an inpatient program for alcohol and substance abuse as part of three months' probation.

In August, Natalie Neysa Alund and Adam Tamburin of the Tennessean reported a witness saw Watson "swat" his girlfriend outside a gas station. The woman, who is also the mother of Watson's child, had scratches on her chest and a "bruised and bloody" left shin and told police Watson "sometimes gets handsy" with her.

The Predators drafted Watson with a first-round pick in 2010. He appeared in 76 games for the team last season.

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