John Scott: The All-Star
Back in 2016, the NHL All-Star captains were decided by an online fan vote.
A small number of fans, and then a very big number of fans, voted for enforcer John Scott win the fan vote as a captain.
Though it may have started as a joke, it really wasn’t one. It isn’t as if John Scott won the lottery and was randomly awarded this on pure coincidence. However, in a lot of ways this was how people around the National Hockey League viewed John.
Scott, much like me, felt otherwise:
"I’m not some random person off the street, and I didn’t win a golden ticket to “play hockey with the stars.” I won an internet fan vote, sure. And at some point, without question, it was a joke. It might even finish as a joke. But it didn’t start as one. It started with a very small pool, out of a very small pool, out of the very, very smallest pool of hockey players in the world: NHLers. That was the vote. A fan vote, an internet vote — but a vote from among the 700 or so best hockey players in North American professional sports."
And John Scott was one of those 700 best people in the world.
And he didn’t get there by coincidence. On the contrary, he worked hard for years to get there. He skated every day seemingly since he could stand to get there. He played through injuries to get there. He made it through long, cold bus rides. He studied on team busses while teammates laughed and yelled watching Adam Sandler movies.
He endured most things imaginable to get to be one of those 700 players.
"“But I’m one of them. And that means a lot to me. It means a lot to my family.”"
So, while this sounds like a feel good story, the NHL found a way to make it far from that.
The NHL All-Star game is one filled with the best talent in the world on full display: dangles, snipes, 100+ mph slap shots and crazy skills competitions.
Put simply, the NHL didn’t think that Scott belonged. They didn’t bother beating around the bush, either.
"“At first, when it became clear that I was going to win the All-Star fan vote, I understood the league’s position. They didn’t mince words — This is not a game for you, John — but I understood all the same. Honestly, on some level, I agreed.”"
However, Scott worked his whole career to get to where he was and that cannot be understated. Playing in Arizona at the time, he found himself in an incredible situation. The team was supposed to have a dumpster fire of a season, but by some twist of fate they came out fighting and shocked a lot of people around the league. John described the locker room as one full of underdogs.
Of course, he fit in perfectly. Not only did he fit in, he brought value to the team not only because of his ability as an enforcer but more-so by his personality and veteran presence in the locker room.
So, given all of this, what happened next in the John Scott story came to a shock to everyone involved. Retrospectively, knowing what he know about how the NHL operates, it probably shouldn’t have. I’ll let John tell it:
"“I see our GM open the door. He’s not smiling. “Hey, John, can we talk for a second?” We head down the hall a few steps, into the stick room of all places, and he shuts the door. And then he tells me point blank. “You just got traded.” Nope. No way. “You’re s******* me.” I hear him perfectly the first time, but I need him to say it again. “We just traded you to Montreal. Yeah.” My mind is racing a mile a minute. I know exactly what’s happened. Still, I can’t help myself. “Are you f****** kidding me?” Enforcers don’t get traded midseason when their team is winning. If you know the league, you know that it just doesn’t happen. “I’m not sure what to say, John. This is how it goes. We’re trying to make our team better. We had a chance to get a player, and we took it.” I’ll keep the rest of the conversation private, because I’m a professional. But you can fill in the blanks. It is, as we say in this business, emotional."
What I saw happen is this: John Scott, an NHL enforcer was winning a fan vote to be an All-Star. This came off not only as a joke to hockey fans, but as a joke to sports fans as a whole. It made the NHL look like they didn’t have rules.
This was apparent when they told him to tell fans to place their votes elsewhere. They told John that the game wasn’t for him.
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So, after fans weren’t persuaded by his request, Scott was traded. Not only was he traded, he was traded out of the division in which he was winning the fan vote. Furthermore, the Canadiens (whom he was traded to) immediately sent him down to the AHL.
A successful NHL enforcer was traded midseason for no clear reason. Then, he was sent down to the minors.
Once again, for no clear reason.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie has information which doesn’t quite help the NHL’s case, either.
“Prior to this, John Scott was asked by both the National Hockey League and the Arizona Coyotes to reconsider his decision to accept a spot on the team that was awarded to him by a fan vote,” McKenzie told James Duthie, TSN’s host. “He refused to do that.”
Then, to make matters worse, McKenzie told Duthie that it was Arizona who wanted him in this trade, not the Canadiens.
"“I can tell you that the Montreal Canadiens had no interest whatsoever in getting John Scott in this trade. The Arizona Coyotes wanted him to be included. You can draw your own conclusions from that. A lot of people have conspiracy theories. Whatever the case may be, but it was Arizona who wanted him in this trade, not the Montreal Canadiens.”"
As McKenzie said, you can feel free to draw your own conclusions from that. That said, there’s a very good portion of fans who don’t think this was all a coincidence at all. Though there’s no clear proof of this, it’s a very curious case that doesn’t quite sit right with me, to say the least.
Nevertheless, John Scott ended up playing in that game. Despite trades. Despite being told he wasn’t made that game. Despite being asked, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”
Well, John answered that pretty clearly.
"Who knows. I like to think so. But I know they’ll be there for me — for their big, goofy dad — no matter what. They’ll be there, in the stands, cheering me on — wearing their Scott jerseys, and watching me try my best, have some fun and fulfill a dream I’ve had since I was, well, their age."
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Regardless of what happened behind closed doors, Scott played in that game and made memories that will last a lifetime. His time in Chicago was short-lived, however I’ll always remember him for standing up for Marcus Kruger that night in Pittsburgh.
That, and for winning the ALL-Star game MVP, celebrating with his family and tallying a couple of goals in the game as well.
Additionally, if you haven’t read John Scott’s piece for the Players Tribune which a majority of these quotes are pulled from, I encourage you to do so.
Only 32 days until Blackhawks hockey!