By: Malcolm Campbell
No man is an island, at least that’s what the poets tell us. Try explaining that to hockey player John Scott though. Never has a man playing a team sport been so isolated, so unfairly.
The National Hockey League (NHL) journeyman’s season was going along rather uneventfully, as was expected. The big man signed a contract extension with the Arizona Coyotes for $575,000 (All figures USD) last summer, joining a group of players few people around the league expected anything from.
By the time the All-Star Fan Vote started on Dec.1, the team was in playoff position, only two points out of first place in the Pacific Division. Three days later Scott was leading fan voting, ahead of perennial all-stars Alexander Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews, as well as the league’s leading scorer in Patrick Kane. Scott had played in only seven of Arizona’s 25 games to that point, had notched a single assist and 18 penalty minutes, averaging under six-and-a-half minutes a game. Not the numbers you’d expect from the leader in all-star voting.
A grassroots campaign similar to the one that vaulted Rory Fitzpatrick into the all-star spotlight in 2007 had reared its ugly head. “They should never have made the fan vote 100 percent of the criteria for the captains in the first place – the lessons of the Rory Fitzpatrick campaign should have taught them something there,” said associate senior writer at The Hockey News Ryan Kennedy.
After it became evident he wasn’t going to fall out of his position, Scott actually made a statement in the hopes of stopping people from voting for him. In the Arizona Republic on Dec. 2, he said, “I definitely don’t want to be in the all-star game. It would be cool, but I definitely don’t deserve it at this point.” In his rundown of the events released yesterday on Player’s Tribune, Scott says the statement was made at the behest of the Coyotes, or the NHL (it is unclear exactly who “they” are).
Kennedy believes that as soon as the campaign had reached the mainstream media the NHL had little recourse.
“Once the vote went viral however, their only real option would have been to lie and say someone overtook Scott, since the raw numbers weren’t out there.”
Scott’s statement didn’t work.
Votes kept pouring in, cementing Scott’s place in the Music City this weekend. Even after his captaincy of the Pacific Division’s team was announced, whether he would have the opportunity to fulfill his role was in doubt. He wasn’t playing in the NHL as he had been in the American Hockey League(AHL) with the Springfield Falcons since Jan.13. Then on Jan.15, only two weeks before his chance to enjoy the spotlight, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. This threw into question not only his captaincy in the game, but his participation in the weekend’s events in any capacity. Since arriving in Montreal he has been playing for their AHL affiliate in Newfoundland, quite a contrast for a family living in the desert up until two weeks ago. How this whole situation affected Scott’s wife and kids is a story in itself, one he tells briefly in his Tribune piece. The tales of many families linked to the NHL, suffering the consequences of life on the business side of the game go untold every year.
The situation is coming to a close, Scott will play in the game and will captain the Pacific Division. Kennedy says there is one way this never happens again, “The future solution is easy: give fans a pool of players to choose from instead of leaving it open.”