People can stomp their feet and claim “it’s embarrassing to the league and the All-Star Game” all they want. But, the game features a Velveeta cheese fountain, celebrity coaches no one has heard of, and most importantly it’s an exhibition game.
[Scott] has become the saviour of the All-Star Game, and legions of people have become fans of Scott, the every-man who is living his dream with a smile ever-present on his face.
The NHL All-Star Game is about to start and before the game even happens, it’s been one of the most eventful in memory.
It all started with a couple journalists suggesting it would be funny to encourage people to vote for one of the “worst” players in the NHL in the open fan vote, Phoenix Coyotes’ enforcer, John Scott.
The idea spread online and suddenly John Scott was one of the top vote getters.
Reaction was mixed – some thought if you’re going to have an open vote, this is the risk you take and if someone like Scott wins, he deserves to be there. Others thought it was an insult to the game/other players/traditions/etc.
With Scott leading the voting, it gets really weird.
It eventually comes out that the NHL (and possibly Scott’s own team) pushed him to encourage fans to vote for other players (which Scott did.)
When that didn’t work, the NHL approached Scott directly about dropping out which he refused to do. One unnamed NHL flunky even asked him if his daughter would be proud of him (insinuating the flat-footed tough guy would embarrass himself in the big game.)
Then, another wrinkle – the Phoenix Coyotes (the team he was on when voted in as an all-star) traded him to the Montreal Canadiens who immediately demote Scott to the AHL, raising questions about whether he was still eligible to play (and if this was the intention of the trade via a backroom conspiracy brokered by the NHL who still feared being embarrassed at one of their showcase events.)
Scott himself pointed out in later interviews that this trade was *highly* unusual in that enforcers rarely get traded mid-season when their team is winning. Family matters rarely get factored into trades but on top of everything, Scott’s wife is nine months pregnant with twins which adds insult to injury.
(But if there are hockey gods, they’re paying attention – Phoenix who were playing above expectations all year have had a losing record since the trade. Montreal has fallen from being one of the best teams in the league at the start of the season to a non-playoff team!)
Anyhow, all of this leads to an enormous backlash from fans who resent their vote being manipulated this way – whether they voted for Scott or not. The majority of NHL players, all-stars and otherwise, plus coaches and others in the game are also supportive, knowing that enforcers do one of the most difficult jobs in sport and also that the NHL shouldn’t take its fans for granted in such a blatant fashion.
The NHL realizes they have a public relations disaster on their hands and backpedal, saying they meant to have Scott at the game all along, that any comments anyone made about his kids are “irrelevant”, and that they’re excited about having him involved.
During the saga, Scott pens an amazing essay, “A Guy Like Me”, which, if you read nothing else in this post, you should click through to read.
In it, Scott reveals he’s not another lunk head fighter but that he’s a trained engineer, that his idol who he alway wanted to emulate was superstar, Ray Bourque, and that he knows the job he does is brutal, frightening and necessary.
It’s all worked out so far – this fiasco has put more attention on Scott as well as the NHL and one of their showcase events, Scott didn’t embarrass himself (at least in the Skills Competition last night) where his “hardest shot” attempt would’ve *won* the contest in 1990 and 1991.
To my mind, this is 100% on the NHL – not the fans who voted for Scott, not the media, not Redditors nor anyone else.
The NHL allows a fan vote so they should live with the results. If people brigade the vote to pick someone who’s eligible but not “deserving”, guess what? That’s been happening as long as the Internet has had polls. Some are binding, some aren’t (ever see the final list of who gets voted for each year in Time’s “Person of the Year” poll? Ever see it match who actually gets picked?)
Plus, it’s supposed to be a fun event. So why suck all the fun out of it, even if it’s mischievous fun? (But when have the suits in the corner offices ever understood that?)
Anyhow, not having done anything to preemptively prevent this situation (how about limiting each team to 3-5 names on the ballot and no write-ins if they want some control over who gets picked?), the NHL should’ve embraced the vote and turned it into a way to promote the game and the players (basically what’s happened anyhow because of their ham-fisted meddling.)
Oh, and I said it’s 100% on the NHL but Arizona and Montreal appear complicit and I would be very happy if neither made the playoffs this year as punishment from the hockey gods!