The NHL tough guy was voted a captain and is honoring that selection for all the right reasons
It started off as a joke, a mockery of the NHL's All-Star Game selection process. The NHL recognized it and tried to prevent it from happening. They couldn't.
When John Scott, longtime NHL tough guy and role player, took the ice for Saturday's skills competition as part of All-Star weekend in Nashville, he did so to a standing ovation.
By this point, his story is well-known and his reason for following through with an unlikely All-Star selection has now gone viral.
Scott wrote a piece for The Player's Tribune titled "A Guy Like Me," explaining his side of the story and why he ultimately would be in Nashville that upcoming weekend and he's doing it for all the right reasons.
First, the backstory: the NHL annually opens All-Star voting for players the fans believe should be captains of the All-Star team. In recent years, when it was simply an East vs. West format, the five starting skaters and one starting goaltender would be voted in.
What this encouraged was fans in some cities stuffing the ballot boxes to have nearly half of their best players all making the team as starters. In an effort to cut back on this, the NHL limited the voting to the four captains, one player from each division in the NHL. Again, in an effort to exploit the system, the fans started rallying around John Scott, a 33-year-old journeyman tough guy who has all of five goals and 11 points in nine seasons.
The All-Star Game is about points, it's a scoring spree with very little competitive edge or physicality. So how does an NHL tough guy get voted in? For sure he doesn't belong, right?
That's what the NHL thought.
Scott tried to deflect the movement. He requested that fans vote for his teammates, though flattered by the support. He admitted he didn't like the distraction. The Coyotes were playing well, with Scott serving in his specific role.
"One of the reasons I’ve made it as long as I have in the league is because I specifically know I’m not an All-Star," Scott wrote.
When Scott officially won the spot as the Pacific Division captain, playing for the Arizona Coyotes, the NHL again tried to make things right. The Coyotes traded Scott to the Montreal Canadiens and he was promptly sent to Montreal's AHL team, the St. John's IceCaps.
As a result, the NHL asked Scott to remove himself from the All-Star team. He didn't budge. Here's why.
When I had my daughters, that helped, too. For some reason, it helped me shut off my brain when I came home. I became a hockey player that I hoped they could be proud of. I even scored three goals with the Sharks last season. They loved that.
"Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?"
That was it, right there. That was the moment they lost me.
Scott's reason for playing comes complete with this moment recounted in the piece. He talks about family, talks about his kids and how if anyone holds the keys to how the people closest to him perceive him, it's John Scott himself.
So Scott will play for his family, but also because, as he writes, "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."
So on Sunday, when the NHL's superstars and skill players all take the ice for the 3-on-3 All-Star tournament, John Scott will be on the ice too with his family in the stands cheering him on. There is no doubt he will be the victor of the night.
As he showed on Saturday night, he's having fun, he's enjoying the moment, he's hoping that someday, this weekend in Nashville will be a moment that makes his family proud. That might just make John Scott a very deserving All-Star after all.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.