How The NHL's Ruthless Desire To Get John Scott Out Of The All-Star Game Came Back To Bite Them

Pete Blackburn

The NHL All-Star Game will take place in Nashville on Sunday and, after a whirlwind of controversy and manipulation, John Scott will be there.

You’ve likely heard the story by now. The NHL enforcer, who only has 11 total points in 285 career games at the NHL level, got voted into the All-Star game thanks to fans hijacking the league’s fan vote. He’s not an All-Star caliber player, so the league became embarrassed that their fan vote was exposed for the joke that it is and begged him to bow out of the contest. When he refused, they (likely) orchestrated a trade that stashed him in the AHL and seemingly made him ineligible for the All-Star Game.

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Then, when the trade blew up in their face thanks to the media sh*tstorm that came with it, the league decided to let Scott play in the game. Damage control in place. Story over, right?

Not so fast.

On Thursday, The Players Tribune published a fantastic piece penned by Scott that details his experience and mindset through the entire process. Honestly, the entire thing is pretty fantastic and well worth your time, but here’s one of the more infuriating excerpts detailing how the league handled it.

If the league thought this was an embarrassment, pretty much all of the players I’ve encountered have thought otherwise. I’ve gotten texts from so many guys saying the same thing: “You should go.”

And that didn’t happen because of the internet. I busted my ass to be one of them. I’ve skated every day since I was three years old to be one of them. I’ve persevered through Juniors roster cuts, Alaskan bus rides, Advanced Dynamics exams, and — yes — fights, to be one of them.

But I’m one of them. And that means a lot to me.

It means a lot to my family.

So when someone from the NHL calls me and says, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”

… That’s when they lost me.

That was it, right there. That was the moment.

Because, while I may not deserve to be an NHL All-Star, I know I deserve to be the judge of what my kids will — and won’t — be proud of me for.

I wouldn’t blame you if you thought the league couldn’t go any lower than colluding to uproot Scott’s family — including his nine-months pregnant wife expecting twins — by forcing them to move than 4,000 miles away to Newfoundland just to take him out of a meaningless game. But you’d be wrong.

It’s wildly insane to envision a league official talking to Scott and attempting to convince him that his participation in an All-Star Game — an event that, at its core, is held for entertainment and fan enjoyment — would bring great shame to his family. But, apparently, that really happened. For real. Over an All-Star Game.

Scott being able to document and reveal the league’s pathetic cowardice in his own words is, in my opinion, one of the stronger cases for the existence and importance of The Player’s Tribune. The piece helps us understand why he wants to be a part of the event, even if he recognizes he’s not your typical All-Star. It also gives us a good idea of why he told the league to shove it when they told him to step aside.

While I don’t deserve to be an All-Star, I also don’t think I deserve to be treated like I’ve been by the league throughout this saga. I’m an NHL player — and, whatever my set of skills may be, that I’m an NHL player is no accident. I genuinely believe that when I’m on the ice, or even just the bench, I make my teammates feel safe to do what they do best.

Does that make me an elite player? God, no. Am I going to be nervous as hell when I step onto the ice on Sunday — and I’m playing three-on-three, with Tarasenko whizzing by over one shoulder, and Toews putting the moves on me over the other? Of course. Will I be the worst skater in the game? I mean, probably.

But at the same time: this isn’t Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m not some random person off the street, and I didn’t win a golden ticket to “play hockey with the stars.” I won an internet fan vote, sure. And at some point, without question, it was a joke. It might even finish as a joke. But it didn’t start as one. It started with a very small pool, out of a very small pool, out of the very, very smallest pool of hockey players in the world: NHLers. That was the vote. A fan vote, an internet vote — but a vote from among the 700 or so best hockey players in North American professional sports.

And I’m one of them.

It’s a wonderful, eloquently written “eff you” to the NHL. And good on him, because it couldn’t be more perfect. If this is his last go-round in the NHL (which it very well could be) then he’s going out the same way he got in – by throwing punches.

But the irony behind this whole ordeal is what makes it so great. The NHL tried so hard to muzzle Scott. They tried to make him go away because they were embarrassed that his inclusion would make the league look bad and make a mockery of its stupid All-Star Game. But, ultimately, they didn’t even need him to pull on the All-Star jersey to look bad. Their attempts to remove him from the event alone embarrassed the league worse than they originally feared.

All the while, Scott, who didn’t exactly have a gleaming reputation before all of this, has now become somewhat of a cult hero. The NHL Shop sold out of his All-Star gear days before the event. He’s won over scores of fans, even the analytics people who puke all over themselves every time they look at his charts and numbers. Not only did the league fail at keeping him out of the game, their attempts to shut him up only amplified his voice and – against all odds – his response turned him into a sympathetic, likable figure.

The NHL All-Star Game isn’t until Sunday but, regardless of what he does or doesn’t do on the ice, John Scott has already won. At least until next week, when the NHL gets their ratings and Scott has to go back to the AHL.

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