“Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?” Those were the words that were said to John Scott when the NHL was trying to get him to bow out of the All-Star game. Scott, who is a lifetime enforcer, was voted in by the fans as the Pacific Division All-Star captain. Needless to say, the league was not pleased. Why? Because the league hates fun.
The league thinks higher of their All-Star Game than anyone else. Despite what they thought, the All-Star Game had become redundant and needed something and special. Scott became that something special they needed.
The NHL acted like it was the worst thing in the world when he got voted in as captain. However, the ratings for the game were actually up 24%. This could be credited to the new 3-on-3 tournament format, but Scott had to have the bigger impact on the increase in viewership. I actually found myself rooting for his team. I was screaming at the TV whenever it looked like they were about to let up the game-tying goal. Because of Scott, I actually cared about an All-Star Game.
But what about Scott made me care about it so much? Well, I think it was a couple of things. The first was obviously that Gary Bettman and company are just hateable and it’s hard not to root for the opposite of what they want. Nothing gave me more satisfaction and a feeling of happiness than when Bettman had to present the check for a million dollars to Scott after the game.
The real reason I think people cared about Scott being in the game was that they could almost relate to him. To see someone who works hard everyday that just loves the game of hockey go out there and live the best day of their life is something you don’t see every day. After all the long bus rides in the minors, and the league trading him to literally another country in the middle of his wife’s pregnancy just to try to keep him out of the game, he definitely earned this moment and it was a long, crazy roller coaster. In fact, he thrived in that moment. He lived out a dream that many of the fans watching at home had. He was, to put it simply, a man of the people.
The thing that people forgot about Scott is that he is a good hockey player. Anyone who can play in the NHL to any degree has talent. There are only 800 or so players in the NHL and to be one of those people by no means makes you a bad hockey player. Scott displayed that he had actual skill on both of his goals and that he was not that out of place on the ice. In fact, I would argue that if no one knew who he was and what his story was then they wouldn’t have even noticed him.
Most importantly, Scott made the game fun. At the end of the day, hockey is simply a game and games are supposed to be fun. This wasn’t a playoff game or anything like that. It was an All-Star Game, and All-Star Games are supposed to be something special. Despite the bitter individuals like Mike Milbury, who made unprofessional comments regarding Scott’s skill level on national television and saying the line Scott centered was a “donut line, with the hole in the middle,” as well as the league being against Scott participating in the game from the beginning, Scott didn’t stop smiling once. Scott remained his goofy self and embraced the moment better than anyone could have imagined. Now, Scott has a story to tell his kids, a potential movie, endorsement deals lined up, an All-Star MVP award, and, most importantly, a day neither he nor the fans of the NHL will ever forget. I think it is safe to say his kids will be pretty damn proud of that.