This year’s NHL All-Star Game was surrounded by ‘controversy’ with the fan vote electing player John Scott as the captain of the Pacific Division.
I put the word controversy in quotes because this isn’t controversial to everyone. Some were upset that Scott took the spot of a more skilled member of his team (namely Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Shane Doan) or that an enforcer has no place at an All-Star event, just to name a few reasons. Sure, John Scott hasn’t won any Rocket Richard trophies and he wasn’t drafted in the first round, but he is an NHL player none the less and that is a level of skill I could only dream of having in such a great game.
I don’t watch the NHL All-Star game every year. Most years, I record it on my DVR and fast forward to what I deem the “entertaining parts” (i.e. the shootout competition, player draft or when a member of my fave team is playing). This year, though, I watched the entire broadcast. Both days of it. I was captivated by how it might go.
I didn’t know what to make of John Scott going to the game. I didn’t know much about him before all of this even came about. I didn’t vote for him, but not because I didn’t think he should or shouldn’t go. To be honest, I voted for Johnny Gaudreau, because I’m a Flames fan (and he’s just unreal).
Remember Zemgus Girgensons? It seemed that all of Latvia voted him in, but the Sabres were doing so poorly that year that he seemed like a decent enough representative and no one batted an eye at his attendance. People have different reasons for voting for different players and that happens in a fan vote situation.
What didn’t I like about this vote? The negative attention that John Scott was getting in the media. Fine, maybe it was a joke by the fans, but that’s the risk the league took by holding a fan vote. My biggest issue? People were outright cruel with some of their comments about his attendance at the game. Maybe some fans or members of the media didn’t think he belonged there, but the way it was handled and the things that were said were unnecessary.
Here’s a guy that loves hockey and plays in the NHL (granted, he had been sent down to the AHL before the All-Star Weekend…and there are conspiracy theories around his trade to Montreal, too). They key to this, though: he plays in the NHL, so he is just as eligible as anyone else in the league. He isn’t some beer league schlub off the street – he still made it to an elite level of what I think is the best (and the hardest) game in the world.
In the week leading up to the All-Star Weekend, John Scott wrote an article for The Player’s Tribune outlining his experience with the fan vote and how he was treated and mistreated. He told his story of how he got into the league, a bit about his background, and just how excited he was to go to the All-Star Game. I learned a lot about John Scott from that article and it really made me root for him in the game (it helps that he was the captain of the division I was cheering for, too).
From all the coverage of the All-Star weekend, here were my takeaways:
John Scott went into the All-Star weekend with a lot of heart. I’ve never seen a group of players rally around one of their own at an All-Star Game. Every player on the Pacific Team asked to play at least one shift with him. Everyone wanted to make him comfortable all weekend and that he was among equals. It didn’t matter if he was the most skilled guy there because everyone was such a fanboy for Jaromir Jagr all weekend!
His family attended, his kids and wife (9 months pregnant with twins, no less) were in the stands watching. He was a part of something for the fans and he certainly gave them what they wanted. Seeing their faces (and his) when he won MVP of the tournament was so heartwarming. Watching his teammates hoist all 6’8″ of him on their shoulders was super cool. It reminded me what hockey is all about and renewed a sense of community for me between the players of the sport.
I’ll be honest, it didn’t change the All-Star Game for me in a bad way having John Scott there. If anything, it made me more eager to watch it and see how it was all going to shake out. In the end, he scored a few goals, his team won (my team, too!) and we saw a camaraderie between colleagues that you don’t often get to see.
Read his article “A Guy Like Me” on The Player’s Tribune here.