Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson is serving an 18-game suspension after pleading no-contest on a domestic assault charge in June following an incident involving his girlfriend, Jenn Guardino.
But on Saturday, Guardino said in a statement that Watson never hit her or abused her, per Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada:
According to the Associated Press (h/t Sportsnet), Watson was arrested on June 16 in Franklin, Tennessee, "after a witness flagged down a police officer to a gas station." Watson told authorities he was having an argument with Guardino and had pushed her, while "officers said they found red marks on her chest, and [Guardino] said Watson caused them."
As a result of his no-contest plea, he's serving three months of probation and undergoing an "in-patient treatment program and a batterer's intervention program."
The NHL initially suspended him 27 games, though an arbitrator reduced his penalty to 18 games. On Friday, the NHL released its own statement announcing its disappointment in that decision, per Emily Kaplan of ESPN.com:
"We firmly believe that the right of appeal to an arbitrator of League discipline was never intended to substitute the arbitrator's judgment for that of the Commissioner, particularly on matters of important League policy and the articulation of acceptable standards of conduct for individuals involved in the National Hockey League."
According to Kaplan, a Predators spokesperson said the team was aware Guardino was going to make a public statement.