Finally, the "will they or wont they" is over and John Scott was indeed allowed to play in the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, which incidentally was a massive success that only a brave few would have dared to imagine. Not only did the local Nashville fans embrace John Scott, going so far as to elect him, as a write-in candidate, the Most Valuable Player of the newly-implemented All-Star tournament, but so too did the players, which ended up providing some of the most entertaining parts of the entire All-Star Weekend. Choosing a favourite out of all the highlight reel moments from Scott is impossible, moments like his reaction to Kane being booed by the Nashville fans, or Kane dropping the gloves with Scott after Scott laid Kane out in the neutral-zone, Scott shutting down Jeremy Roenick during a mid-game interview, or last but not least, the team literally picking up the 6’8’’, 260 pound enforcer on their shoulders to celebrate the Pacific Division’s win. These moments will be how this year's All-Star Game is remembered, not the fact that the final score was 1-0, or the simply fantastic goaltending that was put on display, but instead, fans will remember John Scott. Based not only on his performance, but the way he was welcomed and celebrated, Scott has become one of the best, and most unexpected, feel-good stories in hockey of recent memory. That being said, it didn’t always look like it was going to end this way and some of the lead up to the All-Star Game was ugly, really ugly. Reading The Players Tribune Article ,‘A Guy Like Me’ (http://www.theplayerstribune.com/a-guy-like-me/), written by John Scott himself on his selection and journey to the All-Star Game, shed light on his side of the situation, and made it apparent that given less patience from Scott, or even from the NHL, the All-Star Game may have been derailed by the controversy.
John Scott’s inclusion in the All-Star Game, and the league's resistance to it, pulled back the spectacle of the NHL to reveal that the league, at its core, is actually just a business. According to Scott’s account, the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes asked him to sit out the All-Star game and allegedly discouraged his participation during the weeks leading up to the event going so far as to leverage his children against him. From the Arizona Coyotes’ perspective, they likely would have much preferred a more marketable, young representative, or even would have settled for a current Coyote, representing their team in the league-wide showcase, and understandably so, but that likely went too far. While hypothetical strong showing from the likes of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, or whomever would have had the potential to boost ticket and jersey sales, as well as hook potential fans on the promise of a competitive future by having these young up-and-coming players demonstrate their skills, with John Scott’s selection the Arizona Coyotes, a team that struggles with revenue generation, lost the ability to market one of their preferred players. From the NHL’s perspective, they too would have likely preferred a more skilled player represent the always in-flux Coyotes, however, their hands were tied based on the selection format they themselves had established. The ‘dark-side’ of hockey is that it is in fact a business and because of this simple truth, a business-decision was made and Scott was traded amidst rumours that the intent of the trade was to free up an All-Star spot for the Coyotes. Fans tend to romanticize hockey, and it sometimes is hard not to, but at this level it is a sobering fact that all fans and spectators need to remember, the NHL is a business first and at the end of the day decisions are made with that in mind.
Yet, even with all that fresh in mind it’s still hard not to romanticize hockey, and give in to the emotional appeal of the sport when a 33 year old enforcer goes on to score two goals, is selected as the MVP of the All-Star Game, and wins both a car and his share of one million dollars. It was a great moment, one that I’m sure will highlight John Scott’s career, and that both he and fans will remember for a long time. The almost ‘fairy tale-like’ story of an enforcer, who, while bouncing between the AHL and NHL, held his ground to play with the game’s greatest stars, so much so that Scott is rumoured to have been approached since the All-Star Game about a potential book and movie deal about his hockey story. While the All-Star Weekend may have been the end of Scott’s NHL career, as he has since reported to St. John’s of the American Hockey League, it was amazing to see the way the players embraced him in his moment. John Scott’s success at the All-Star Weekend is an amazing feel-good personal story that shows what hockey can do for a person. While facing criticism from the media, the league, and his team at the time, all of Scott’s fellow NHL players rallied around Scott and had his back, much like he has had the backs of the players for whom he has played with, season after season. It was a fitting, and potentially, symbolic end to the role of the enforcer in hockey. The positive in the John Scott saga is seeing the players support Scott both on the ice and off it with the media. The camaraderie and sportsmanship among the players displayed throughout the entire affair was incredible and demonstrated the best of what hockey has to offer.
Hockey has the ability to bring people together and to foster bonds between teammates that will last a lifetime. While hockey has this strong emotional hold on us as fans, it’s easy to forget that the NHL is first and foremost a business, and sometimes the decisions the league makes are not necessarily the most popular, but they are the ones deemed necessary by executives and managers and are not taken lightly. John Scott’s story highlighted both the best, and the worst, that hockey has to offer, in despite being hindered by the business-side of hockey, both the fans and players created an atmosphere of support around him. I think Scott’s success was well deserved, as he handled him self with composure and dignity both on and off the ice throughout this whole process, and the overwhelming success and positive feedback is something, that when in contrast with the adversity that Scott had to overcome to get here, demonstrates both the best and worst aspects of professional hockey.