Everyone has been writing about John Scott. But everyone will have a slightly different perspective. These are my thoughts. Enjoy.
The All-Star Game is behind us, and we can get back to focusing on games that actually matter. But there’s no doubt the 2016 edition will go down in history as one of the better ones. Not because the skills competition was riveting (it wasn’t) not because the 3 on 3 was so breathtaking (it wasn’t), but because the players and fans alike embraced John Scott and made him the star. And considering everything that’s happened to him over the past little while, he deserved it.
Imagine for a moment that you’re an athlete, very self-aware, hanging on to a career as a professional hockey player, not because you skate fast or score pretty goals, but because you stick up for your teammates and you make the dressing room a great place to be. Imagine knowing that your kind is slowly getting snuffed out, that what you bring to the table is no longer needed among many NHL franchises. Imagine understanding that your days playing the game you love could be numbered.
Imagine you have found a home that you and your family really love. You aren’t thinking about next season right now, because this season is going so great. Now imagine that a few people with a lot of time on their hands decide to stick it to the NHL by taking advantage of their poorly constructed voting system, and use you as the butt of the joke. What was their intent? Find the one NHL player who never in a million years would get selected to the All-Star Game by merit, who plays a couple of minutes a night, and wouldn’t be out on the ice in any meaningful situation, and try to get him into the game, because you hate the All-Star weekend and all it represents, and you don’t understand that hockey players are real people with lives and families.
The ridiculous campaign worked, and John Scott was voted in as the captain of the Pacific Division team. Did you really think the NHL would be on board? Not a chance. They bullied Scott into taking himself out of the game. And maybe he should have. Maybe if he knew the events that would follow, he would have taken himself out, before all the real ugliness began. But, as specified by the rules that the league created, the fans voted Scott in, and he had every right in the world to go.
I don’t know what was really behind the trade, perhaps we never will, but when the Coyotes traded John Scott to the Montreal Canadiens, who subsequently buried him in the AHL, the league likely hoped the problem would go away. But it didn’t. The fans predictably reacted, and the league looked like the mean old fun-suckers for trying to render Scott ineligible. Why exactly did the Habs trade for Scott? Did they even intend on ever calling him up to the NHL? We may never know.
What we do know is that the league sunk to a new low in trying to force Scott to remove himself from the game. He told the world all about it in a Players Tribune article. Maybe he knows he has played his last NHL game. Maybe he wanted to go out in a blaze of “screw you” to the league. But then again, Scott has been fortunate to be an NHLer for as long as he has, so you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you. However, bringing Scott’s kids into the equation is a line you don’t cross, and Scott wasn’t going to take that lying down.
As for the All-Star weekend itself, well Scott embraced that about as well as he could. He was like a kid in a candy shop. He soaked in every last moment, and hey why not. We all would have done the same. The fans cheered him on, his peers encouraged him, and, in perhaps a very pre-planned way, the Pacific division won the tournament, making John Scott the perfect candidate for MVP. He scored two goals, so it wasn’t even far-fetched. Many are citing the 2016 game in Nashville as the best they’ve ever seen. And it will likely go down as one of the most memorable.
But the game wasn’t great because of the talent of the players. It wasn’t great because of the fancy goals, the hardest shot, or the fastest skater. It was great because it had nothing to do with skill at all. It was a celebration of what hockey has been for so many years. It was about the lovable tough guy. The face puncher that gains the respect of his teammates every time he takes the ice. The dying breed of what was once the epitome of the sport. A last hurrah for one the games last true enforcers.
John Scott’s NHL career may be over sooner than he expected because a few people considered him to be a joke, and the NHL responded to that about as badly as they possibly could. But we’ll never forget watching Scott ride off into the sunset, on the shoulders of his teammates, clutching his MVP award. His inevitable departure signals the turning of the tide between what the NHL has been for so long, and what it has now become. John Scott’s name will likely never be forgotten now, and even though it started off as something negative, it turned out pretty great. We can thank the players and the fans in Nashville for that. And we salute you, John. Thanks for the memories.