NASHVILLE — It started off as a sideshow. John Scott, an enforcer who often in his career spent more time in the penalty box than he did on the ice, was the leading vote-getter by the fans for this year’s All-Star game in Nashville.
Scott would be the first to tell you that he didn’t seem himself as an All-Star. But nonetheless, the campaign to get Scott into the All-Star game worked. It was all set for him to captain the Pacific Division in the new 3-on-3 format, or so we thought.
Just days after being nominated as the lone representative of the Phoenix Coyotes, Scott was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. He discussed the transaction — and the National Hockey League’s smear attempt to keep him out of the All-Star game — at length in a revealing article for the Player’s Tribune.
Facing potential backlash, the NHL announced that Scott would indeed participate in the All-Star weekend festivities in Nashville.
Still, it was hard to imagine Scott’s appearance being nothing more than a footnote as the league’s best took center stage. By the end, it turned out to be one of the most inspiring stories in All-Star history.
“Yeah, you never know what to expect. I kind of thought that I was going to be in the background and just enjoy it from behind the scenes, and it just didn’t turn out that way,” Scott said in the herd of media surrounding him during his postgame press conference.
The way it turned out proved to be the best thing for Scott, and for this weekend, the NHL.
The 6-foot-8 Scott scored twice in his first ever action of 3-on-3 hockey leading the Pacific Division to a 9-6 victory over the Central Division in the second 20-minute session. His first goal was worthy of GIF-friendly celebration. His second was on a breakaway catching the eye of Tyler Seguin in the process.
“I just talked to him [after our game], and I just told him that I never seen a player score top shelf, far side before on a breakaway,” said the former Bruin. “I let him know that it takes a lot of skill, and I was very impressed.”
That wasn’t the only special moment that Scott had in that game. Following Patrick Kane’s goal on a rebound, Scott chased his former teammate to interfere with his celebration. The two dropped the gloves and hugged one another as the crowd in Nashville, who booed Kane mercifully throughout the weekend, stood in applause.
“It’s great for him and his family,” Kane said about Scott’s All-Star appearance. “He’s done a great job this weekend with…the way he brought himself upon the media and even just in the locker room with the guys; the way he’s handled himself has been awesome and he played well out there too. So, like I said, it’s a cherry on top.”
Scott’s appearance would’ve already been memorable in and of itself. What followed in the third period featuring the Pacific and Atlantic Division — who defeated the Metropolitan All Stars, 4-3, in the first game — is something that is hard to put into words.
While not one of the original options for MVP vote, the crowd in ‘Smashville’ made their voices heard. Chants of “MVP, MVP, MVP” echoed throughout the Bridgestone Arena. On social media, #VoteMVPScott was tweeted from fans and several NHL team accounts.
At the conclusion of the Pacific’s 1-0 win over the Atlantic, Scott was raised above the shoulders of his teammates. The game’s MVP announcement followed. Scott was revealed as this year’s recipient.
“I keep saying it was a whirlwind and it kind of just went by so fast,” Scott said. “Yeah, I loved it, it was probably the coolest thing I’ve done in hockey for sure.
“I never in a million years thought that I would be in an All-Star game and have the fans get behind me like that. To score two goals in a game, you can’t put it into words. You can’t write this stuff. It’s unbelievable how it happened.”
Not knowing how he’d be received by players, peers, coaches, scouts, fans, media and everyone else involved in the 2016 All-Star Game, Scott is appreciative of the support.
“I didn’t know how the other players would react to me here, but everyone has been overwhelmingly supportive. They kind of, in their own way, pulled me aside and said ‘We’re glad you’re here, and we’re happy to have a guy like you playing out here, and good luck.’” Scott said with a huge grin. “I think they’re kind of happy that I won [the MVP] surprisingly. It was nothing but good words from those guys.”
The other 43 All Stars welcomed Scott with open arms.
“I’m happy for him. I’m sure he’s on cloud [nine], and he should be,” said one-time Olympian and Habs defenseman P.K. Subban, who, like Scott, participated in his first All-Star game. “He played really, really well, and, you know, it’s exciting. Everything that he’s gone through and to go into the All-Star game and perform that way…he had fun out there, and that’s what this is about.”
“It’s the biggest story, and, you know, I think it was made into a negative thing into awhile, but all in all, it drew attention to the NHL All Star game, and attention is what the NHL wants,” expressed Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo, a four-time All-Star. “It’s a good thing to have him here. He did well, you know, he played well, he deserved everything he got and, you know, we’re all happy for him.”
“You know, it’s great. Everything that happened to him the whole weekend, and, you know, it was deserving,” added two-time All-Star Patrice Bergeron, the lone Bruins representative at this year’s All Star game. “He played well, and, you know, for sure, it’s good for him.”
Scott won’t come down from cloud nine quite easily. This week, he and his wife are expecting two new members of the Scott family. Reality will hit shortly after as Scott will likely return to the Habs’ AHL affiliate in St. Johns.
John Scott’s All Star story, however, will never be taken away from him. And he deserved to cherish every moment in one of the most memorable weekends in recent All Star Game history.