The annual NHL All Star game is a polarizing event every year. Some fans love it, some hate it, and the NHL is constantly tweaking the game format to try to make it more fan friendly. This year the major change to the format was making the game a 3 on 3 tournament instead of one regular game. It was a previous change however, that got John Scott into this years All Star game, and began the whirlwind of controversy that this year’s mid-season classic will be remembered for.
All Star Voting
Fan voting was first brought into the All Star game back in 1985 as a way of choosing the starting lineup. Over the years it has undergone all kinds of changes and different formats, but for most of the years since then, fan voting has had some kind of influence on the game. This year however, fans took advantage of a system that gave them carte blanche to do whatever they wanted. In an internet movement, John Scott, a man more known for playing a tree to Phil Kessel’s lumberjack (see below), was elected not only to the All Star team, but as a captain to the Pacific division.
Scott led the NHL in All Star voting for a large portion of the voting period and though the NHL has not released the final numbers, he likely led the league in voting. The twitter hashtag “#VoteJohnScott” was introduced on the internet, and the people did the rest. Fans taking advantage of All Star voting is not a new trend, and it is not limited to just the NHL. The entire sports world has been subject to this growing trend. Just last season, NHL fans, and Latvian hockey fans, voted Zemgus Girgenson into the All Star game. It was said 79% of votes came from his home country, but Girgenson got his spot. ESPN outlined the Girgenson situation as well as a few other instances of fans hijacking the vote that you can see here. All of this to say it is not a new trend.
The Scott Controversy
Though situations like this have arisen before, Scott was a different case entirely, and the All Star game that was used to being beaten up in the media, was about to go another round. Lets be honest, Scott has no business in the NHL All Star game, he may have no business in the NHL this season. The big forward has spent as much time in the AHL as he has in the NHL this season and for all the latest talk, Scott was a villain in the NHL for a while He has been suspended for more games than he has career goals (5), and has never played more than 56 NHL games in one season. In 11 NHL games this year he has one assist and 25 penalty minutes, yet the fans voted him in.
This is where the controversy starts, and where the NHL gets beat up by just about everybody. The fans were given a voice and they spoke, they wanted John Scott. The NHL, obviously upset by their voting system being taken advantage of tried to stop this.
John Scott was previously asked by both NHL and Arizona Coyotes to bow out of NHL All-Star Game. He refused. Trade likely takes care of that
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 15, 2016
Reports came out that both the league, and the Coyotes had asked Scott to bow out of the mid-season classic. This was contrary to many public statements by league officials saying they would respect the fan voting. Scott obviously refused, whatever his reasons, you cannot blame him. Scott was voted in and owes something to those fans, not to mention the bonus he’ll get by playing in the game, which is significant for a guy making $575,000 in the NHL and less in the American Hockey League.
Things got worse for the public relation director of the NHL when Scott was traded. Sent from Arizona to Montreal, and immediately to their AHL affiliate, it appeared Scott could no longer represent the Coyotes. Call it a conspiracy, a coincidence, whatever you want, it appeared the NHL had solved their problem. However, no one expected the backlash that followed. Fans, media, current and former players, everyone slammed the NHL for how they handled this situation, and in the end, Scott was included in the game.
No one really comes out of this smelling like roses. Scott will play this weekend and then likely live in the AHL for much of the rest of his career. The league had a public relations disaster. Deserving Coyotes like Oliver Ekman-Larsson are missing a game they deserve to be in. Even the teams involved, the Coyotes and Canadiens, come out of it looking petty. A solution is not easy, but it is clear the NHL needs an absolute overhaul in their voting system. Whether you limit who fans can vote for, change the one representative per team rule, or take fan voting out of the equation all together, something needs to be done. In the end, all will be okay, the story will be forgotten, the league will sell some humorous jerseys, and John Scott will play in the All Star game. Lets just hope he adds to his scoring totals and doesn’t do what he does best.
Born and raised Winnipeg sports fan and contributor with The Hockey Writers.