Earlier this evening, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association disappointed thousands after a press release revealed that Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson’s suspension for domestic abuse had been reduced from 27 to 18 games by an arbitrator.
Watson was charged back in June after a passerby called the police after witnessing Watson scream at his girlfriend and then become physical with her at a Tennessee gas station. Red scratches along the victim’s chest, along with heavy bleeding on her calves were found by police. Watson pleaded no contest to the domestic assault charges in July and is serving three month’s probation.
While the NHL does not have an official policy for domestic abuse cases, many fans believed that they would handle this properly. Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was suspended indefinitely for an incident four years ago (he has not played in North America since). In my opinion, 27 games weren’t even enough for Watson. A reduced suspension? A slap in the face for fans, and a slap on the wrist for Watson.
Earlier this season, Capitals right wing Tom Wilson was suspended 20 games for a hit in which his feet never left the ice. Former Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt was suspended 20 games for a small trace of a performance-enhancing substance found in his system. Two separate cases where Watson’s crime, although much worse, received a lesser punishment.
As a woman in the sports industry and an avid fan of the NHL, I am truly outraged in how they chose to handle this situation. If things of this nature are not taken seriously, I fear that the pattern will continue. Are we at the point where a rough hockey hit is a more punishable offense than domestic abuse?
Hockey is for everyone. It’s for the mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives. It’s for every female in the industry who wants to see a change. I hope that the NHL can look at their mistakes and in the future, do better.
The NHL’s official statement on the matter can be found here.
By Nicole Giordano