Preda­tor’s Austin Wat­son has sus­pen­sion re­duced for as­sault

NHL im­posed 27 games, but ar­bi­tra­tor cut penalty to 18

The Niagara Falls Review - - Sports -

NEW YORK — The NHL is crit­i­ciz­ing an ar­bi­tra­tor’s de­ci­sion to re­duce the sus­pen­sion of Nashville Preda­tors for­ward Austin Wat­son, who pleaded no con­test in July to a do­mes­tic as­sault charge.

Wat­son, 26, re­ceived a 27-game sus­pen­sion from NHL com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman last month. The six-foot-four, 204-pound Ann Ar­bor, Mich., na­tive was charged af­ter push­ing his girl­friend hard enough to leave red marks on her chest.

The NHL and NHL Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion an­nounced Thurs­day that ar­bi­tra­tor Shyam Das had re­duced it to 18 games.

The NHL is­sued a state­ment Fri­day say­ing that “we are dis­ap­pointed with the ar­bi­tra­tor’s de­ci­sion.”

“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,” the NHL said in its state­ment.

The NHL added that “we will not hes­i­tate to ad­here to and en­force — through firm dis­ci­pline as nec­es­sary — the stan­dards of per­sonal con­duct we feel are ap­pro­pri­ate for our league.”

The NHL doesn’t have a writ­ten do­mes­tic vi­o­lence pol­icy and takes each si­t­u­a­tion on a case-by­case ba­sis.

Wat­son was ar­rested June 16 af­ter a wit­ness flagged down a po­lice of­fi­cer to a gas sta­tion in Franklin, Tenn.

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 24.

He can have the mis­de­meanour charge dis­missed by ful­fill­ing terms of his ju­di­cial di­ver­sion pro­gram. Wat­son must serve three months of pro­ba­tion and com­plete both an in-pa­tient treat­ment pro­gram and a bat­terer’s in­ter­ven­tion pro­gram.

Wat­son is a for­mer first-round draft pick who scored a ca­reer­high 14 goals and had five as­sists in 76 games dur­ing the 2017-18 reg­u­lar sea­son.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Austin Wat­son pleaded no con­test in court af­ter he was seen push­ing his girl­friend at a gas sta­tion dur­ing an ar­gu­ment.

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