Predators' Austin Watson Suspended Indefinitely Over Alcohol Abuse, Enters Treatment

The Nashville Predators forward was suspended indefinitely and admitted into a substance abuse program

Ducks Predators Hockey, Nashville, USA - 08 Mar 2018
Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been suspended indefinitely and placed into the National Hockey League’s substance abuse program.

The NHL and the NHL’s Players’ Association announced in a joint statement on Tuesday that Watson, 27, was entering stage two of the NHL’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, adding that the treatment was “related exclusively to his ongoing issues with alcohol abuse.”

“Under the terms of the joint program, Watson will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators,” the statement ended.

Predators Lightning Hockey, Tampa, USA - 22 Sep 2017

A representative for the Nashville Predators did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.

In September, Watson was suspended for 27 games after the conclusion of an investigation into a domestic violence incident against his girlfriend, Jennifer Guardino, in June. One month later, in October, the 27-game suspension was lowered to only 18.

“I have determined that Nashville Player Austin Watson engaged in a physical confrontation with his domestic partner,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement published to the NHL’s website at the time. “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.”

On June 16, Watson was arrested by the Franklin Police Department on suspicion of assault after a witness called an officer to report Watson pushing his girlfriend, as detailed by the Tennessean. She reportedly told officers that the NHL player sometimes “gets handsy” with her.

The department did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment at the time.

In July, Watson pleaded no contest to the domestic assault charge and received three months probation, the Washington Post reported, which included 26 weeks of a batterer intervention course and a treatment program for drugs and alcohol.

In an Instagram post earlier this month, Watson opened up about the events of June 16 and his struggles with anxiety, depression and alcoholism, writing in the caption, “As my 26th year comes to an end in a couple days, I’ve found myself reflecting lately. In doing so, I’ve felt a deep urge to be a bit more open.”

Watson wrote in the post that he was “currently sober and committed to living a healthy lifestyle so that I can be the father partner, teammate and person I want to be.”

“Jennifer and I are in a good place,” he continued. “We are healthy, happy, and committed to our own individual sobriety as well as continuing to strengthen our relationship.”

If you or someone you know is in need of help, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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