Fan voting for the NHL All-Star Game’s four divisional team captains opened on Dec. 1, and almost immediately an unexpected name rose to the top to the leaderboard: John Scott, the Arizona Coyotes goon who has appeared in nine games with an average ice time of 6 minutes and 15 seconds (*).
It’s now Dec. 18, which means we’re two weeks away from the fan vote closing. John Scott continues to lead all vote-getters with a grand total of ...
… um … wait, I know it’s here …
Huh, weird: We literally have no idea how many votes he has. Because the NHL has never revealed his vote total, or any of them for this season.
One of the hallmarks of All-Star Game fan participation is seeing the vote totals and adjusting accordingly: Trying to flood the ballot box to help your favorite player if he's trailing on the leaderboard. It’s the thing that encourages fan engagement in the weeks leading up to the game, and then encourages them to watch the game itself.
When the NHL announced 2016 All-Star Game fan voting had opened, it said that “vote totals will be posted to NHL.com every Tuesday, starting Dec. 8.”
Two Tuesdays have passed. We have trending players and the full rank of players, but no vote totals. The NHL also hasn’t emailed any vote totals to the media, either, as it traditionally does to get the word out about leaders. Even if one of the leaders is a little-known Buffalo Sabres forward with vote totals fueled by Latvian fans.
The difference between Zemgus Girgensons in 2015 and John Scott in 2016, however, is that Girgensons wasn’t a joke candidate to the large European electorate that supported him. Scott, of course, is a total goof – a fighter of presumably limited skill that will be skating up and down the ice with elite offensive players in a 3-on-3 format. Which will be hilarious and maybe even a little surprising if Scott can hang, but a goof nonetheless.
So the NHL has no idea what to do about this.
In poking around on this story yesterday, it was acknowledged by the League that it isn’t releasing weekly vote totals, and currently doesn’t plan to do so.
Part of this is not really knowing how to spin Scott’s campaign in a way that doesn’t embarrass the League -- can you even begin to imagine Gary Bettman's canned quote about the "fans have spoken" or some such?
Part of this is hoping that by downplaying the All-Star Game voting altogether, the Scott candidacy fad will pass before the voting closes on Jan. 1.
And it's not just in refusing to release vote totals. Look at NHL.com. There currently isn’t a link to the fan voting at the top of the page, nor any reference to the All-Star Game at all.
I appreciate the spot the NHL is in. The other leagues don’t have one-dimensional healthy scratches that fans are voting to the top of the all-star ballot, and so there’s a fear the NHL will look bad by acknowledging it. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the traditional sports media will collectively leap onto a story like “Hockey Goon Leads All-Star Vote” if this thing leaks out of the hockey universe into the mainstream.
But the fact is that two weeks in, John Scott is leading all NHL All-Star players in votes. There’s a very good chance he’ll be in Nashville for the All-Star Game, provided he doesn’t pull out or the NHL doesn’t invalidate his candidacy on some invented technicality. (See Fitzpatrick, Rory.)
And as we’ve said for weeks about John Scott, All-Star: More people are going to tune in to watch a Coyotes goon participating in the skills competition and the 3-on-3 game than they would have to watch Max Domi do the same.
It’s awkward buzz, but it’s still buzz. And lord knows the NHL All-Star Game could use some.
Well, at least John Scott seems like he's coming around on it:
UPDATE: Here's a wrinkle -- Scott has been waived by the Arizona Coyotes.
Waivers: JOHN SCOTT ARI CHRIS BROWN WSH
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) December 18, 2015
Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
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