The boyhood dream has come true for John Scott.
In the manner of a couple months, he has gone from an unwanted player sent down to the AHL to the MVP of the NHL All Star game.
The 33-year old enforcer wasn’t supposed to be here. Scott who has more fighting majors than goals in his NHL career isn’t exactly what anyone would consider a bonafide NHL All Star. He has played in just 9 NHL games this season and hasn’t scored a single goal. He was even put on waivers on two different occasions by the Arizona Coyotes. Despite this, there is an overwhelming likability to the man.
It started as a joke when the NHL left the All Star game to a fan vote online this season. The fans could select a captain to represent each division as a team captain. The fans took over and decided to make the All Star game interesting by voting Scott in as the Pacific representative.
The NHL wasn’t exactly pleased by this turn of events and tried to orchestrate a coup by having the Coyotes trade Scott to the Montreal Canadiens and moving him to the St. John’s Ice Caps of the AHL to void his eligibility in the game. He was also pressured by league officials to decline his All Star invite even going as far as to ask him if his daughters would be proud of him for accepting the invite according to an article he wrote himself for the Players Tribune. An insinuation that joining the All star game would be in some way “disgraceful”. There were numerous members of the media and even former players who wanted nothing to do with John Scott as an All Star.
Jeremy Roenick on Jon Scott playing in the NHL All Star Game: “I lost some respect for Jon. He is not an all star + he shouldn’t be there.”
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) January 28, 2016
The fans once again came up to bat for their champion. The outcry on social media was tremendous and in the face of a public relations fiasco, Scott was allowed to play.
During the All Star weekend, Scott was bombarded with media coverage and words of encouragement from fans at events and in the streets. His popularity unquestioned, Scott’s All Star shirt sold out in mere hours. He found familiar faces at the All Star game in former teammates with the San Jose Sharks Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski who he spent last season with.
“They just told me, ‘go to the net. Keep your stick on the ice. We’ll find you. We’ll get you a couple,” Scott told the media of Pavelski and Burns.
Despite the continued support from fans, coaches and teammates. Despite bringing his 9-month pregnant wife and two young daughters to the weekend in Nashville, Scott still had a very vocal detractor in NBCSN Hockey Analyst Mike Milbury. Who despite being an enforcer himself in his playing days with the Boston Bruins and infamously selecting Bruins enforcer Chris Nilan in the 1991 All star game, insulted and scoffed at Scott being there. Calling Scott’s line on the Pacific team the “doughnut line” and interrupting colleague Keith Jones and saying “moving on” as he was giving analysis of John Scott.
For Scott and his supporters, the All Star game couldn’t have been any better. 47 seconds into the game and on his first shift, Scott scored the opening goal for the Pacific to a thunderous pop form the crowd. every time he touched the puck there was thunderous applause. He engaged in a “fight” with Central captain Patrick Kane who dropped his gloves after scoring a goal following a play where Scott accidentally hit him. Later in the game, he scored again on a breakaway that he tucked in the top corner glove side on Central division goalie Devan Dubnyk.
Milbury was left at the NBC booth looking like a super villain who had his evil plans thwarted. Jeremy Roenick interviewed Scott saying that he was wrong about his criticism of Scott being there and that the player deserved to be there to which Scott responded “well that’s not the first time you’ve been wrong Jeremy.”
Roenick’s detractors especially Sharks fans like myself have had a tenuous relationship with the former Sharks player and analyst who has called out face of the franchise Patrick Marleau calling him “gutless” and has had constant criticism of the culture and ways the team has went about it’s business. This moment had us doing cartwheels.
On the back of Scott’s two goals, the Pacific advanced to the championship round of the 3 0n 3 tournament for $1,000,000. During the game, the scoreboard flashed as to whom the fans could vote to be the All star MVP. yet again, Scott was ignored and fans booed. This time when he would touch the puck thunderous chants of “MVP, MVP, MVP” rang throughout the Bridgestone Arena.The power of the internet prevailed again and the fans voted for Scott anyways. The Pacific outlasted the Atlantic in the championship 1-0 and John Scott was declared the MVP.
In a truly dream moment his former Sharks brethren hoisted their 275 pound captain up on their shoulders. A smile on Scott’s face that would grow the Grinch’s heart two sizes larger, and perhaps the weeping of grown men followed.
“It’s just another one on the list of stuff that I cannot believe is happening,” Scott told ESPN of being MVP. “I never in a million years would have believed I was at an All-Star Game, the fans would be behind me like that and score two goals in a game. You can’t put it into words. You can’t write this stuff. It’s unbelievable.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman presented Scott with $1,000,000 check and shared his support whether it was genuine or trying to save face you can be the judge.
The NHL All Star game was a genuine success and became must-watch television. The new 3 on 3 tournament format bred exciting play and the players had something to play for. It was the greatest NHL All Star game of all time and while it was just an All Star game, the moments it created will linger.
As Rangers announcer Sam Rosen once said, for John Scott, his family and the fans “This one will last a lifetime.”