On Thursday evening, an independent arbitrator reduced Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson’s historic 27 game suspension to 18 games. Watson was arrested and subsequently suspended by the NHL for an alleged domestic abuse incident.
The 26-year-old Watson was charged in an incident on June 16th, 2018 after a witness flagged down a police officer to a gas station in Franklin, Tennessee where Watson was allegedly involved in an altercation with his girlfriend. Watson told police he and his girlfriend were arguing and that he pushed her. Officers said they found red marks on her chest, and she said Watson caused them. Watson pleaded no contest to domestic assault on July 24th.
It’s worth noting that the NHL does not have an official policy regarding domestic abuse but that didn’t prevent league commissioner Gary Bettman from handing out a massive 27-game suspension to Watson.
“I have determined that Nashville Player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner,” Bettman said in a prepared 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.”
On Friday, the NHL released a harsh statement on the situation following Watson’s reduced sentence.
The news that Watson’s suspension has been reduced is obviously not go over well with most hockey fans. The fact that Bettman and the NHL took such a strong stance against Watson and his actions was seen as a positive step forward, despite the negative situation. With nearly 10 games and 1/3rd of his suspension rescinded, expect the fan backlash to be strong.
It will sure resonate with what the NHL had to say today on the change in this suspension.
As for Watson himself, he’s been barred from participating in practices or other on ice activities with his teammates, but was in attendance for the team’s opening night banner raising ceremony in which they immortalized their 2017-18 President’s Trophy championship, Regular Season Western Conference Championship and Central Division Championship…
Some people wonder why Watson is even allowed back...
Photo Credit: Zuma Press