When players are traded, demoted, placed on waivers or even benched, we as viewers and fans have gotten used to hearing the same old cliché – hockey’s just a business. And so we’ve grown used to seeing anything happen.
That was until this year when the league was embarrassed by the number of all-star votes pouring in for the rarely used John Scott. Now, we all know the story so I won’t waste your time telling you the details all over again. Instead, those who watched the All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, what did you see?
For those who decided not to take part in the viewing party, let me take you down a short path on how Scott’s presence at the weekend has a bigger impact than any of us really know.
Old Teammates, New Stories
I started watching the unfolding of Scott’s all-star journey through the Twitter account of Brent Burns – a former teammate of the enforcer in San Jose. The two, who’ve been reunited by their all-star designations have taken advantage of the weekend away from the seriousness of the NHL grind and enjoyed their time in Nashville.
Sure, there’s a number of us that would like there to be some kind of stakes for the winner of the All-Star Game, but at the moment that’s not what it’s about. It’s about entertaining the paying fan. Showing up and having red carpet moments, stopping to sign autographs for the fans that idolize these players.
— Brent Burns (@Burnzie88) January 29, 2016
— Brent Burns (@Burnzie88) January 30, 2016
Isn’t that what’s happening with Scott and Burns in these photos? They’re having fun. Forget the fact that Scott’s numbers aren’t your average all-star calibre statistics. He was named an all-star and he’s having fun with it. On top of that, the respect he’s received from his fellow players is a sign of just how loyal they are to each other.
Lockouts, Loyalty and the Players Tribune
Just prior to coming to the All-Star Game in Nashville, a tell-all article was posted to the Players Tribune by Scott (or whatever ghostwriter exists behind the scenes) opening up about his experiences with the league following his being named an all-star. While the league never really commented on the issue too much, it can’t be easy to continue on with the accusations you used a man’s kids to try to get him to bow out of what would likely be one of the biggest moments in Scott’s hockey career.
Jump ahead to the hardest shot contest in the skills competition. After he was announced and stepped to the starting position, not only did the crowd (including his family) stand with an ovation for the first-time all-star, but so did his fellow players.
That’s where the talk of the past lockouts come into play. When his fellow players stood to cheer on a colleague that was almost ridiculed by the league, that was a moment when everyone watching should have felt something. Amazement. Enjoyment. Anything that shows that you’re a human being. After all, that was a union showing their loyalty to each other.
We’ve all witnessed the frustrating negotiating tactics used by the league and the players during lockouts. One party wants something where the other isn’t willing to budge – yet they both know there has to be some sort of compromise. But on Saturday, the loyalty shown by the players on the ice when Scott stepped forward was something that should warn the NHL of just how improper the Scott situation was – it’s a comment to the league as to where the players stand. But most of all, it was a compliment to the man who for more than a month was the centre of all bad news in a 30-team league – even though he wasn’t dressing for one of those 30 teams.
While we await the 3-on-3 action of Sunday – and surely more moments that include the all-star Scott – if nothing else comes from this weekend, it’s the unity of the players that we should all recognize as an example of the solidarity in the NHL.
For more from Nashville, check out THW’s All-Star Weekend coverage or follow Andrew on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.