When I started watching hockey as a kid, I latched onto the Chicago Blackhawks because I lived in Chicago, and that made sense to me. My younger sister decided that she was going to be a Pittsburgh Penguins fan because she was 11 years old and liked penguins. That sounded silly to me as a kid, but now I wouldn’t judge.
People decide to become fans of teams for different reasons. Likewise, our reasons for liking certain athletes are varied, too. As a kid, I looked up to Dirk Graham because he was a hard-working player, and would have loved to have seen him play in an NHL All-Star Game. And even though he won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward, he was never selected for an All-Star Game. If he ever was, it would probably have been at the expense of a more offensively-gifted player. But who cares? Graham was my guy, and I wanted to see him succeed.
Fans should be allowed to like what sport, league, team or player they choose, for whatever reasons they wish. That said, no matter why fans voted for John Scott to be in the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, the NHL owes it to both the fans and to Scott to honor their end of the deal — regardless of whether Scott participates as a member of the Arizona Coyotes, the Montreal Canadiens, the St. John’s IceCaps or the Tallahassee Warthogs.
The NHL encouraged fans to vote for four All-Star captains. The fans chose Scott to be the captain of the Pacific Division. Who cares if it is because they like him as a person, or think it would be hilarious to see a big, slow enforcer in a 3-on-3 All-Star Game, or because they liked the color of his skate laces, which FYI are white. None of that matters.
What matters is, Scott is who the fans voted for, and Scott wants to play.
Obviously, the NHL is embarrassed. They wanted the Westminster Dog Show, and a mutt was voted into the spotlight. The NHL never disclosed how many votes Scott received, but stated that he “paced the Pacific” in voting, which sounds less impressive than “won by a landslide.” Now the NHL was in what they perceived to be a mess.
Thus, the Coyotes traded Scott on Friday afternoon, at a time that would draw less media scrutiny than, say, a Monday morning. You can bet the NHL expedited that trade’s approval, too. Coyotes GM Don Maloney stated that he had to move Scott because of financial reasons. But Scott’s $575,000 annual salary shouldn’t be too hard to make room for on a team with $10 million in salary cap space.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that both the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes asked Scott to forego his participation in All-Star weekend. Scott declined, stating that he wanted to participate. McKenzie also stated that while Montreal reportedly had no desire to acquire Scott in the three-way trade that also involved the Nashville Predators, Arizona insisted that they take the enforcer in the deal.
So, the Canadiens did, and then buried him in the minors.
And the NHL will come up with some bogus reason that Scott is now ineligible to play in the All-Star Game.
Perhaps even more insulting is that the NHL told Scott that the league would pay for he and his family to go to the All-Star Game as spectators. Maybe if he behaves they’ll treat him to a garbage bag full of popcorn, too.
Scott was punished for wanting to play in what would be the game of his lifetime, to give his two young children the chance to meet the NHL’s best players and to compete for a share of the $1 million prize that the winning team would split.
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Let us also not forget that fighting is still a part of the NHL. According to HockeyFights.com, Scott’s fighting record in regular season NHL games is 32 wins, five losses and one draw from 2008-09 to 2015-16. There are few players that would be willing to go with the 6’8″ Scott, and even fewer who would stand a chance.
Obviously, fighting is not a part of the All-Star Game. But neither is hitting or playing defense, as goalies get lit up more times than a menorah. Yet, defenseman and goalies are in the All-Star Game every year, despite their minimal contributions in it.
Scott’s trade was a vindictive move by the Coyotes, but it also tells the fans where they stand with the NHL. Neither the Coyotes nor the league respected their wishes, because what the fans want — who they choose to vote for or to root for — really does not matter. That shot from the league hurts more than a John Scott haymaker punch. ■