A huge sentence has fallen on Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson on Wednesday night. The National Hockey League has suspended him 27 games for "unacceptable off-ice conduct." He pleaded no contest to a charge of domestic assault in July.
“I have determined that Nashville Player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner...is necessary and consistent with the NHL’s strongly held view that it cannot and will not tolerate this and similar types of conduct.” - Gary Bettman
In case you missed the news, the 26 year old Watson was arrested on June 20th after allegedly getting into a roadside altercation with his girlfriend. Franklin Police Lt. Charles Warner made the announcement that Watson had been arrested and then subsequently released on $4,500 bond.
The officer was called to the scene by a witness who reportedly saw Watson’s girlfriend “trying to back away from being shoved away.” The woman repeatedly said “stop” and was trying to cover her face from witnesses. Watson told the officer that he and his girlfriend were having an argument and he admitted to pushing her. The officer found red marks on the women’s chest.
After the news became public the Predators said in a statement they “are still gathering facts and it’s not appropriate for us to comment further at this time.” Team officials noted “this is a matter that we are taking very seriously and we will cooperate fully with the investigation by law enforcement.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had later said in a statement that the league is aware of the situation and “it will be dealt with in due course and prior to next season.” Daly added “our focus currently is on the well-being and safety of Austin’s girlfriend, their child and Austin himself."
Now, the verdict has fallen, and Watson must deal with the consequences...
UPDATE: It was reported shortly after that the NHLPA will be filing an appeal in behalf of Watson.
It is expected that a similar or even bigger suspension could be applied to former NHL defenseman Slava Voynov if he chooses to comeback to the league. The NHL maintains it is just "starting the investigation process" on Voynov, per Bill Daly. There is reportedly no timetable but "certainly not before training camp."
Voynov was convicted of domestic abuse back in 2014 when he was a member of the Los Angeles Kings. The Russian defenseman remains indefinitely suspended from the NHL over a 2014 incident that got him sentenced to 90 days in jail on a misdemeanour charge of corporal injury to his spouse Marta Varlamova. At the time of the incident a Redondo Beach police officer reported that Voynov's wife had a laceration over her left eye where blood was streaming, as well as red marks on her neck. He also claimed that Voynov pushed his wife to the ground and then kicked her while she was down and that he also choked her on three separate occasions during the assault. When the officer arrived at the scene of the crime he noted that there was blood all over the bedroom and that there was blood on the comforter as well as a bloody hand-print on the floor.