Thursday, January 28, 2016

Some Thoughts on John Scott - All-star

Before you go any further – go read this post on the Players' Tribune. I'll wait.

OK. Now let me begin by saying that I voted for John Scott. Heck I probably voted for him six or seven times. I've made fun of John Scott for not being a very good hockey player. I've also made fun of him for having two first names. As everyone knows, you can't trust someone with two first names. After reading his post do I feel a little bad about it?

Maybe, for making fun of his hockey ability. After all I'm just a blogger who can barely tie his own skates let alone play hockey. He is among the top 1% of hockey players in the world, so saying he “sucks” or laughing along with other other people joking about his ability is wrong.

That being said, does he belong in the All-Star game? It all depends on what the All-Star game really means. If it's to bring together the best talent in the league to celebrate the best the game has to offer then no. If it's to have fun and show off the NHL to fans and casual observers, then why not have him there.

In fact, the NHL should mic him up while they're at it. Scott seems like an affable (and intelligent)guy who will play up the absurdity of the situation in a lighthearted manner. Heck, maybe he'll even goad one of his competitors into a “fight”. Or imagine Scott and Jaromir Jagr just hanging out along the boards together having a chat while their line mates play 2-on-2.

In other words there was a way for the NHL to embrace the result of the fan vote in. They've chosen to go in another direction. When it became apparent that fans (either a small cartel of really, really dedicated people or hockey fandom in general) didn't mind voting Scott in the league took some shady actions to try and sway the vote. They had Scott release a statement saying that he didn't “deserve” it. They buried the online voting page. Then they refused to release the standings as the contest drew to a close.

It seems like Scott was on-board with the league and probably would have declined the honor (which would have been interesting to see if the league would have then suspended him for not showing up – kind of like the folks in Flint, Michigan still getting water bills for water that is literally poisoning them) if they hadn't gone over the line:

“So when someone from the NHL calls me and says, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”

That's where they lost me....because while I may not deserve to be an NHL All-star, I know I deserve to be the judge of what my kids will – and won't – be proud of me for.”

To call him and ask that question is just so unbelievably out of line for a professional organization. I would bet a lot of money on the unidentified caller not having kids of his/her own. Because that questions doesn't insult John Scott the hockey player, it insults John Scott the father.

And it probably cost them the chance to have John Scott on their side. As his post points out, Scott is not a stupid man. He is also a proud man who has, like everyone else in the NHL, worked hard and sacrificed a lot to become a professional hockey player. Unlike some players, say the 3rd overall pick in the 2013 entry draft, he wasn't blessed with exceptional skills.

He is extremely self-aware of who he is as a player, and has been so since he was in college and studied engineering so that when hockey didn't work out for him he could, in his own words, “[sit] in an office at GM back in sleepy Ontario, in my suit, and be happy as hell about it.”

If you read any of the book about NHL fighters or grinders, there is always the moment when they realize that their path to the top isn't paved with goals and assists, but with busted lips and broken knuckles. It's a choice they have to make, keep trying to score goals be out of hockey in 2 years or drop the gloves and maybe, just maybe keep the dream alive. What would any of us do in that situation?

The NHL does not come out great in this episode. They are the ones that made this into a bigger deal than it was. The players seem ok with it, heck they seem to roll with just about anything (see – Alex Ovechkin campaigning to be the last player drafted in last year's All-star draft). The fans get the kicks from poking the bear and seeing John Scott playing 3-on-3 hockey.

If the league had embraced this earlier then it's a non-issue. But then again that wouldn't be the NHL. This is the same league that thinks it's fans don't care about salaries or advanced stats. So why not taking control of the narrative from the start and lauding this as the fans recognizing the hard-working, gritty third-liner?

God knows if the league had anything to do with Arizona first placing Scott on waivers a week before the All-star break or the subsequent trade to Montreal. That's delving pretty far into the conspiracy side of things. There would be more fuel to the fire if the league was still running the franchise, but to think that they stepped in and forced a team to make a trade is pretty out there.

While saying that the league dictating trades to spite a fan-led on-line initiative ventures into Illuminati territory I'm surprised some PR whiz for the league didn't realize that trade would make a bad situation look worse? They could have told both sides to hold off until after All-star weekend. I'm pretty sure Jarred Tinordi would have still been available next week.

While I think the league carries much of the blame for this fiasco, the fans share some responsibility as well.

Can we, as hockey fans on the internet, agree that we've achieved our goal? From the original “Vote for Rory” campaign to the entire nation of Latvia voting for Zemgus Girgensons we've pretty much achieved peak trolling by getting John Scott into the all-star game. So let's just stop. If there is a fan vote next year, go back to voting for deserving players or your favorite player. After all, any internet-based campaign is pretty much going to pale in comparison to John Scott - All-star.

Sean McIndoe (aka DownGoesBrown) touched on this point a few weeks ago. He pointed out that this campaign felt a little different then the ones in the past because the fans went out of the way to identify Scott as the player most ill-equipped to be in this All-star game. In doing so it isn't the lighthearted, all in good fun write-in campaigns that we've seen in the past.

So we as fans should take it to heed when he mentions that he “busted his ass” to be one of the best players in the game of hockey. And that while we're treating his selection, and by default his career, as a joke – he has earned the right to be there.

In the end, this will be forgotten by 99% of the sports world. It'll be a footnote in the history of the All-Star game, kind of like the year that they switched formats to North America vs. The World. The season-in-review posts will mention it somewhere between the NHL announcing expansion to Las Vegas and the Steven Stamkos free agent hysteria. At least that's what the league hopes.


shoeboxlegends said...

Great post! I honestly can't say that I disagree with anything you wrote. Good take on the subject indeed!

Anonymous said...

High Cesta John Scott

Sal said...

Good article, Justin. You are right: if the NHL just embraced it from the get-go, this wouldn't have been an issue. But I still believe that the NHL did not want Scott in the game; otherwise, they would have immediately stated that he would be in the game despite his trade.