Nashville Predators' Austin Watson suspended for domestic assault

Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been suspended 27 games without pay for "unacceptable off-ice conduct," the NHL announced Wednesday.

Watson, who also is suspended without pay for the entire preseason, pleaded no contest in July to a domestic assault charge. The NHL Players' Association is filing an appeal on Watson's behalf. If the appeal is not successful, Watson will be eligible to return Dec. 3 against the Buffalo Sabres.

The NHL is the only one of the four major professional sports leagues without a specific domestic violence policy. Everything is handled on a case-by-case basis. The NHL conducted its own investigation of Watson and held an in-person hearing with commissioner Gary Bettman. The suspension was levied under Rule 18-A of the collective bargaining agreement.

"I have determined that Nashville Player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner," Bettman said in a 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."

The Predators issued a statement saying the organization "supported and worked closely" with the NHL's investigation on Watson.

"During his suspension, we wish Austin, Jenn and their baby the best as they take the necessary steps to move forward, with the support of the Nashville Predators, the NHL, the NHLPA and all the collective resources they can provide," the team said.

Watson, 26, was arrested June 16 in Tennessee. According to a Williamson County court affidavit, a Franklin police officer was flagged down by a witness to a possible domestic situation at a gas station.

Police said Watson told them at the time that he and his girlfriend were having an argument, and he acknowledged that he pushed her. Officers said they found red marks on the woman's chest, and she said Watson had caused them.

The former first-round draft pick scored a career-high 14 goals and had five assists in 76 games last season. He had five goals and three assists in 13 playoff games.

Watson has played in 216 career regular-season games, all with the Predators.

The NHL also is working on another domestic violence case.

Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov is still suspended indefinitely for a 2014 incident. He is now seeking reinstatement. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN last week that the NHL had only just begun investigating Voynov, who also will have a hearing with Bettman. Daly could not offer a timetable but said a decision on Voynov would come "certainly not before training camp."