Independent arbitrator Shyam Das cut nine games off the NHL's original suspension, the league announced before Thursday's game against the Winnipeg Jets. The NHL Players' Association appealed his original suspension, which was announced before ...
Paul Skrbina Nashville Tennessean
Published 7:45 PM EDT Oct 11, 2018
Austin Watson was on the ice in full uniform Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena for a ceremony before the Predators' home opener against the Calgary Flames.
He will return to the ice sooner than expected after his 27-game suspension stemming from his no-contest plea on a domestic assault charge this summer was reduced to 18 games.
Independent arbitrator Shyam Das cut nine games off the NHL's original suspension, the league announced before Thursday's game against the Winnipeg Jets. The NHL Players' Association appealed his original suspension, which was announced before training camp began.
Das was fired by Major League Baseball in May 2012, three months after he overturned Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. He had been the league's longest tenured arbitrator.
"As previously stated, our focus has and will continue to be the health and well-being of Austin and his family," the Predators said Thursday in a statement.
Watson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor domestic assault this summer after he was arrested in June, accused of allegedly striking his girlfriend outside a gas station in Franklin. He was sentenced to three months' probation, an inpatient program for alcohol and substance abuse and 26 weeks of batterer intervention.
Watson had an in-person meeting with the league Sept. 7. The NHL does not have a specific policy relating to domestic abuse.
Watson will be eligible to return Nov. 15 when the Predators will be in Arizona. Watson missed all of training camp. He's allowed to practice with the team and use its facilities during his punishment, which will cost him more than $241,000 of his $1.1 million salary.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called Watson's behavior "unacceptable" upon handing out the original punishment.
The Predators said they "worked closely" with the NHL during its investigation. Team management also said it never considered cutting ties with Watson, but rather working with him and his girlfriend, adding that the length of the suspension was never a concern for them.
"That was the furthest thing from my mind," general manager David Poile said after Watson's original suspension. "All the conversation was with Austin, (his girlfriend) and the baby and whatever we could do to help improve their lives and their situation. I couldn’t care less about the suspension.
"We’re dealing with this as a family situation. It’s very complex. There’s (a) lot of layers I don’t know about, you don’t know about."
Predators CEO and President Sean Henry said the hockey aspect of the situation wasn't considered.
"We didn’t think about hockey," Henry said. "We didn’t think about the hockey player. We were thinking about the people involved, the investigation. The only conversations we had were about the people involved."
Watson, a fifth-year forward, had five goals and three assists in 13 playoff games last season, after posting 14 and five in 76 regular-season games.
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