NHL journeyman enforcer John Scott, beloved by players and fans but unwanted by league officials, had the last laugh by taking Most Valuable Player honours at the NHL All-Star Game.
The 33-year-old Canadian left wing, an unlikely write-in All-Star voted to the event by fans thanks largely to an internet campaign, scored twice and was hoisted onto the shoulders of his superstar teammates after helping the Pacific division win the $1 million top prize up for grabs.
“This has been great. You guys have blown me away,” Scott told fans as they chanted “M-V-P” while every player tapped his stick on the ice in tribute to an everyman living a career moment.
NHL officials tried to discourage Scott from taking part, he detailed in an essay on the Players Tribune website, citing one who asked him, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?” “That’s when they lost me. That was the moment,” Scott wrote. “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.” Scott skated with them on the ice after the game as his pregnant wife Danielle cried.
“I’m so amazed,” she said. “At first we didn’t take it super seriously but when it started to come through we were really excited.” NHL officials apparently feared ridicule to honour a player with a mere five goals in 285 games with six teams and a recent trade to a seventh, the Montreal Canadiens, that sent him to his current club, the developmental St. John’s IceCaps in distant Newfoundland.
“While I don’t deserve to be an All-Star, I also don’t think I deserve to be treated like I’ve been by the league throughout this saga,” Scott said.
“When I’m on the ice or just the bench I make my teammates feel safe to do what they do best.”
So it had to be a bodycheck to the NHL when commissioner Gary Bettman handed Scott an oversized $1 million check on the ice.
“If the league thought this was an embarrassment, pretty much all of the players I’ve encountered have thought otherwise. And that didn’t happen because of the internet. I busted my ass to be one of them,” Scott wrote.
— No golden ticket —
“This isn’t ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’ I’m not some random person off the street and I didn’t win a golden ticket to ‘play hockey with the stars.’” Scott, a 6-foot-8 (2.03m) and 270 pound (120kg) man-mountain who typically keeps foes from manhandling skilled teammates, has been defying the odds since youth coaches told him he was too big and slow to succeed.
“To have Johnny play like he did and show what kind of player he is, that’s a great thing,” said Pacific defenseman Brett Burns, a Canadian backliner for San Jose.
“That was a special moment. That showed a lot of people he has got great skill. He just chooses to protect his guys and we think a lot of him.” A new event format saw four teams drawn by NHL divisions, with line-ups playing 3-on-3 in two 20-minute mini games and winners meeting in the final.
Scott scored twice for the Pacific in a 9-6 victory over the Central division to set up a winner-take-all match with the Atlantic stars, who beat the Metropolitan side 4-3.
Pacific right wing Corey Perry, a Canadian who plays for Anaheim, scored the only goal while goaltenders Jonathan Quick and John Gibson blanked the Atlantic division in the 1-0 final.
“It was the best possible outcome,” Scott said.
“Everybody had fun and we ended up winning.”