Austin Watson

Predators players open their hearts and homes to shelter and rescue dogs

By Jim Diamond

On the ice, Barret Jackman is known as a tough stay at home defenseman who plays with an edge. Similarly, forward Austin Watson usually plays on Nashville’s fourth line, which is thrown out there when the team may be in need of some energy through physical play or to kill off a penalty.

Away from the rink, Jackman and Watson have a softer side in their shared passion for shelter and rescue dogs. Between the two, they share their homes with five former shelter dogs.

Dogs end up in shelters or with rescues for many different reasons, and quite often those reasons are not pleasant ones, and not usually the fault of the dogs either. But many who have gone through the process of adopting a pet from a shelter can attest to the fact that those animals just need to be given a chance. When given that chance, they can be an amazing addition to a family.

“Everybody loves pets and animals, and I think when you go to the Humane Society or the rescue facilities, it’s really disheartening and you almost feel badly if you leave there empty-handed,” Watson said.

While playing in the American Hockey League for the Milwaukee Admirals, Watson and his wife Karly became involved with the Humane Society of Milwaukee. And they didn’t often leave empty-handed when they visited.

“My first year in Milwaukee, I had my wife with me at the time,” Watson said. “She wasn’t working, she’s Canadian, so we got a dog. And we ended up having two more by year end.”

Shelter dogs have been known to be of mixed breed varieties, and the Watsons’ brood is no different. Bubba is a basset hound mix, Bongo is a black lab and chow or maybe a little pit bull, and they also have a Husky named Brianna.

Playing his first season with the Predators, Jackman spent his first 12 NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues. In the Gateway City, along with his wife Jenny, Jackman and several of his teammates with the Blues became involved with Stray Rescue of St. Louis.

“When my wife and I got married, we were combining two houses, so we didn’t need anything for wedding gifts, so we tried to find a cause that was close to both of us and we ended up working with Stray Rescue trying to build awareness for stray dogs in St. Louis,” Jackman said.

For the Jackmans, their love of animals is something that they have passed down to their children.

“We have two (dogs) right now,” Jackman said. “We fostered probably about a dozen different dogs until they were adopted. We had one that passed away about a year ago. We’ve always had them in our home. Our kids know the feeling of going down to the shelter and helping out a little and picking out their new best friend.”

Finding a new friend and giving that friend a chance at a forever home can be as easy as a trip down to the local shelter.

“They are a real blessing to us,” Watson said. “They are part of the family. We have a great time with them.”

Austin Watson making his case for a spot on the opening night roster

By Jim Diamond

In an otherwise gloomy performance in the Predators final home preseason game Tuesday night against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets, one bright spot for Nashville was an early shorthanded goal by Austin Watson.

The unassisted backhand marker from in close gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 9:03 of the first, and it was pretty much downhill from there in a 5-2 defeat.

First round draft picks bring high expectations; from the fans, the teams who drafted them, and most importantly, the players themselves. Watson was Nashville’s first pick (18th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Entering his fourth professional season, Watson has not played an NHL game since making six appearances late in the 2012-13 season, a season in which the injury bug ran rampant through the Nashville system where it seemed another forward went down each game played.

Watson scored his lone NHL goal April 23, 2013 against the Calgary Flames.

Now 23, Watson is looking to stick with the Predators coming out of this season’s training camp. Tuesday was Nashville’s penultimate preseason game, with only Saturday’s game in Columbus on the slate in advance of next Thursday night’s regular season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes.

With 28 players still on the roster, five will have to go before the Predators set their opening night roster, which can be a maximum of 23. There’s less than a week remaining before the NHL-mandated October 6 at 3:00 p.m. CT deadline to establish that opening night roster, and Watson is focused on continuing to do what has kept him in camp this far.

“It’s just keeping with the process,” Watson said after Tuesday night’s game. “You’ve just got to come out here and compete and work hard every day. You’re trying to earn a job and that’s the mindset every time you come to the rink.”

He’s been here before and knows that the team’s coaching and management staffs see everything he does on the ice both in games and in practice.

“You know what’s going on,” Watson said. “They’ve got to get down to 23 guys and it’s going to happen here before the season. You’ve just got to keep doing what you’re doing, try not to read too much into it and just be the best you can be out there. Hopefully it works itself out.”

The two-year deal Watson signed this offseason is a two-way contract for this season and a one-way deal for 2016-17. That means that if Watson is sent to the minors this season, he will be paid the $100,000 portion of that contract. He will make $575,000 at the NHL level should he stick.

Having a player on a two-way contract makes it easier for a team to send him to the minors, especially if it comes down to a decision between him and someone on a one-way contract, who makes the same salary in the NHL or the minors.

Watson has at most a week left to try and prove to the Predators that he belongs on the NHL roster that they will submit to the league next Tuesday.