Fan power shames NHL and makes a hero of All-Star MVP John Scott
Career journeyman and enforcer wins award in an unlikely tale worthy of a Hollywood script
He was never taught to think big, at least not real big. For John Scott, success would have been a corner cubicle at General Motors in his hometown of St Catharines, Ontario.
He was merely hoping for a white-collar job in a blue-collar town and like all of his friends, Scott had a love for hockey, if not an aptitude for the game.
Thanks to his towering size, Scott managed to get an offer from tiny Western Michigan Tech where he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree. But somewhere between the engineering degree and the corner cubicle, he became an international sensation.
Last week, Scott set the hockey world alight when he was named MVP of the NHL All-Star game. The fact that Scott was even in the game was remarkable in itself.
A slow-footed, gangly 2.03 metres, Scott is a career journeyman who has played for six NHL teams and scored a grand total of five goals in 285 games. He does, however, have 534 penalty minutes and close to 50 fights.
Scott is an enforcer, a dying breed whose job is to fight. For years, he has been paid to protect star players and for one game he finally got to skate among them.
It was a rare and spontaneous moment, the likes of which the corporate environs of professional sport rarely – if ever – see.
Not even Hollywood could have scripted this and, wouldn’t you know it, the film world has now come calling to tell Scott’s unlikely tale.
The commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman, exists for one reason and one reason only: to make more money for the owners. He is extremely unpopular among fans and any appearance by Bettman is routinely accompanied by deafening boos.
Now what if we could show our fans how much we actually care by allowing them to elect the All-Star captains for the four divisional teams participating in the event?
But such is the disdain for Bettman and the NHL execs that fans used the opportunity to throw a massive wrench into their plans by voting in a career journeyman and enforcer as one of the captains.
The campaign to elect Scott took on a life of its own and the Arizona Coyotes brawny defenceman became the leading vote-getter and captain of the Pacific Division team for the upcoming game in Nashville.
Not surprisingly the NHL was not amused and asked the somewhat reluctant Scott to step aside and refuse his election. A number of pious members of the media also chimed in to voice their disgust.
Initially, Scott seemed OK with not playing, but then the constant badgering of NHL execs and the realisation that this was the wish of the fans held sway and he said, “I think I will play in the game”.
Again the NHL was not amused and within days Scott was traded from Arizona to Montreal, who immediately banished him to their minor league team in Newfoundland.
Oops, sorry, Scott is no longer in the NHL so he is now not eligible to play in the All-Star game, said the league honchos.
Suddenly, the story of Scott’s travails took on a life of its own and transcended hockey.
With two young daughters at home and a wife nine months pregnant with twins, the Scott family was being uprooted because his popularity shamed the NHL.
With nowhere to hide, the league relented and allowed him to participate in the game, while keeping him on the shortest of leashes.
But the players and fans would have none of it and demanded Scott be treated like all the other stars.
He was now the anti-hero hero and television ratings for the lacklustre exhibition in the US, where hockey is merely a curiosity, soared 35 per cent thanks to the unlikely tale of Scott.
Still, the NHL was not entirely on board and when the three candidates for the game’s MVP were announced for online voting, Scott was omitted despite scoring two goals and leading his team to victory.
Again social media sprung into action, flooding the voting for Scott to the point where the NHL had to name him MVP.
The crowd went wild as his teammates put him on their shoulders in a moment so touching and endearing that is seemed surreal.
Articulate, amiable and humble, Scott’s story now belongs to Hollywood and what a tale of triumph over corporate duplicity it promises to be.
There is a lesson for professional sports leagues the world over as well. Respect the will of your fans or suffer high-profile consequences.