As a hockey fan, January 31, 2016 is probably my favorite day for the sport. Now, it’s January 31, 2017. Man, how time flies.
Any NHL fan knows the story of what happened that day. The day where everything went right in the face of adversity and a loser became a lovable loser. Yup, I’m talking about John Scott and the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.
I will be honest here, and I’ll probably sound like a hipster saying it, but: I liked John Scott before it was “cool.” I was skeptical when my Sharks signed him for the same reason that others didn’t want him, but seeing him score three goals was amazing. Truth be told, when he signed with the Coyotes, I was pretty heartbroken but wished him the best.
All-Star Game voting began later in 2016 and I didn’t pay it much attention. The ASG never caught my interest since the fan-based voting often led to the same names being voted in every year. Imagine my surprise when a campaign to get Scott into the ASG started roaring to life. I didn’t vote, but I was rooting for it to happen; I’ve voiced my thoughts on getting an underdog into an all-star event before, so it’s not surprising that I was pumped to see Scott leading the Pacific Division votes.
And then the trade to Montreal happened. Like much of the hockey community, I was confused, since it would not have made sense for an Atlantic Division player to rep the Pacific. He was also demoted to the AHL and St. John’s, which led to the creation of the conspiracy theory that the NHL was trying to intervene in the voting process. While it was never officially revealed that the league was tampering with the vote, it wouldn’t have been the first time fans were suspicious. In 2007, zero-point scorer Rory Fitzpatrick finished third in the ASG vote, but “unlikely numerical coincidences in the final week of voting” made people wonder.
With how bizarre the situation was, some people were concerned about how Scott felt about it, because let’s be honest: this is akin to mocking him. Select one of the worst players in the NHL and vote him in. That’s all he is to many people. Just a guy who picks fights. It made you wonder if he was offended by it or not.
Eventually, he wrote an article for The Players’ Tribune titled “A Guy Like Me,” which showed fans that he’s not just someone who fights for the heck of it. He’s a human like all of us, but he’s even more than that; he’s a human whose hockey ability has helped him play last in the top hockey league for so long. He wasn’t someone who just wanted to fight. He did it for his teammates. Selfless, dedicated and a lot of heart. Isn’t that what every fan wants their favorite players to be?
I will admit, crying in the middle of Forensics class was not what I had planned to do the day it came out. More importantly, however, the article mentioned this dialogue that pissed the hell out of me:
“Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”
That was it, right there. That was the moment they lost me.
If the league thought this was an embarrassment, pretty much all of the players I’ve encountered have thought otherwise. I’ve gotten texts from so many guys saying the same thing: “You should go.”
So when someone from the NHL calls me and says, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”
… That’s when they lost me.
That was it, right there. That was the moment.
Because, while I may not deserve to be an NHL All-Star, I know I deserve to be the judge of what my kids will — and won’t — be proud of me for.
It is sickening that someone from the NHL would ask him if his kids would be proud of him for being voted into the ASG as a joke. We may not know who that someone is, but they are an absolute prick if they decided to resort to getting his family, much less his children, involved. I lost a lot of respect for Gary Bettman and the league right there.
When the NHL finally relented and let Scott captain the Pacific team, I felt a wave of relief. Finally, the episode is over and we can play some hockey.
Entering the All-Star weekend, I was beyond excited to see how Scott performs. While I wasn’t expecting him to do a great job in the skills challenge, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the stunts he and his fellow peers pulled, ranging from Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns’ kids on the breakaway challenge to P.K. Subban’s Jagr tribute to (of course) Scott’s hardest shot challenge. I couldn’t help but smile watching the events.
Then, Sunday arrived. It was already a crazy day in sports with the Rolex 24’s dramatic Corvette photo finish, so the ASG had a lot to live up to in terms of my entertainment. It did not disappoint.
First, we saw the Captain get set up by his former Sharks teammate Burns to score, followed by an awesome snipe. And to top it off, a fight with Patrick Kane, because of course. Watching the players have fun and getting Scott the scoring opportunities was a blast and made the 2016 ASG probably the best NHL All-Star Game in recent memory. Yes, the Pacific Division winning it all was the icing on the cake. While watching the game, I was tracking the events on Twitter and I was surprised to hear Scott was not a finalist for ASG MVP. Damn it NHL, stop trying to sabotage the fun.
As it turned out, the NHL shouldn’t have underestimated the power of social media (once again) as players and teams flooded the ballot with #VoteMVPScott. When it was time to announce the MVP, I was hoping the write-in candidate would win it.
Not only was it sweet to see Bettman award the MVP honors to Scott, but the entire weekend as a whole was amazing. If Hollywood tried to make a film about this, I can almost guarantee non-hockey fans would have brushed it off as unrealistic. Speaking of movies, the final freeze frame shot needs to be the picture of him being lifted onto his teammates’ shoulders, especially from the back as pictured below.
Eat your heart out Hollywood, because you couldn’t write a better script than this if you tried.
When the weekend came to a conclusion, it was pretty safe to say the NHL would be trying its best to prevent another John Scott from making the All-Star Game. The so-called “John Scott Rule” – which prevents AHL / injured players from being named All-Star captains – is the prime example of this. I don’t blame them, but it sucks. At the same time, though, it feels somewhat relieving to know that I was able to witness what turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime moment. The fact that it will only happen this one time makes it so much more special.
Scott later announced his retirement in yet another excellent Players’ Tribune article called “Five Goals, Four Kids, and One Hell of a Good Time.” Yes, Mr. Scott, you had one hell of a good time.
So did all of us.