Girlfriend of Predators' Austin Watson says incident 'not an act of domestic violence'

Paul Skrbina
Predators' Austin Watson waits his turn during practice at Centennial Sportsplex Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.

Austin Watson's girlfriend Jennifer Guardino released a statement Saturday afternoon saying the Predators forward did not physically or mentally harm her June 16, the day Watson was arrested on misdemeanor domestic assault charges for allegedly striking her during an argument at a Franklin gas station.

According to Jonathan Weatherdon, director of communications for the NHL Players' Association, Guardino's email is "authentic."

"I would like to start by saying how much I appreciate my family and friend's support during this time," Guardino said in the email. "I would also like to extend my sincere compassion to victims of domestic violence. 

"The incident that took place on June 16th, however, was not an act of domestic violence. Austin Watson has never, and would never hit or abuse me. My behavior and state of intoxication lead to the police being involved that day. 

"I have struggled with alcoholism for many years and I am actively involved in AA. I am fortunate to have Austin's continued support with my treatment. We handled matters poorly on June 16th and know that we need to make better decisions going forward.

"I take full responsibility for my actions on that day. I would like to sincerely apologize to everyone involved for the negative attention that followed this incident, including the Nashville Predators community and the city of Nashville." 

Watson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor domestic assault against Guardino, the mother of the couple's young child, and was sentenced to three months' probation. He also was ordered to attend inpatient program for alcohol and substance abuse and 26 weeks of batterer intervention.

Watson's original suspension of 27 games without pay from the NHL was reduced to 18 games Friday by an independent arbitrator. He is eligible to return to the ice Nov. 15 when the Predators face the Coyotes in Arizona.

Guardino was arrested on a driving under the influence charge on Aug. 3, 2015, in California. The charge was stricken from her record in early October of that year.

A Predators employee said the team was made aware of the statement about 15 minutes before it was released but said it was "100 percent consistent" with the team's meetings and conversations with Guardino.

An email sent Saturday afternoon to Guardino by the Tennessean requesting more details has not been returned.

More:Why Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson's suspension was reduced and who was behind it

Watson was on the ice Tuesday during team introductions at Bridgestone Arena before home opener, and he's allowed to practice with the team and use team facilities during his suspension.

The NHL said in a statement Friday it was "very disappointed" with the decision to reduce Watson's suspension and that the league would "continue our steadfast efforts to ensure everyone in our league is adequately educated and sensitized to the importance of this serious social issue."

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