NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As far as sports stories go, Hollywood screenwriters couldn’t write a tale better than John Scott’s journey to the NHL All-Star game.
In order to get the full perspective of what happened on Sunday, a little background is needed on John Scott, a player a lot of sports fans aren’t even familiar with, or at least they weren’t, until a focused effort from the internet community launched him into a national spotlight.
Just looking at statistics, John Scott was a nobody. He is a 33-year-old defenseman/winger reaching the end of his career, mostly known in the game as a bruiser who entered the NHL undrafted in 2006 and has since been passed along to six different teams. Prior to his induction into the All-Star game, Scott had scored just 5 goals in his entire NHL career.
In fact, as of Jan. 15, Scott doesn’t even play in the NHL. He was traded to the Montreal Canadiens and sent to the St. John’s IceCaps in the American Hockey League, which is part of what makes this story is so incredible.
In November, the NHL announced a change in format to the All-Star game. The game would be played as a 3-on-3 tournament between divisional teams, likely due to the intense popularity of the 3-on-3 format of overtime play in regular games. The league hoped to boost interest by opening the fan vote to any NHL player, and that’s where John Scott came in. An internet prank was about to skyrocket him to the forefront of the game.
Within hours of the vote opening, the Twitter hashtag #VoteJohnScott appeared, and a write-in campaign catapulted Scott’s name to the top of the list. A man who by all accounts, should’ve spent his entire career in relative anonymity, was leading hockey greats like Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane by a vast margin.
Although the campaign likely started as a prank, soon voters cast their ballots as a genuine effort to grant a wish to a man who surely dreamt of making that star-studded roster but thought it would never come to be. Either way, Scott welcomed the campaign, as it would likely be his best chance to ever skate out onto that All-Star ice.
The league took notice, with deputy commissioner Bill Daly even issuing a statement saying, “As long as voting is legitimate, we will honor the results.”
The hockey bigwigs gritted their teeth and became the butt of the internet’s joke. The vote worked, and on Jan. 2, John Scott was not only named to the Pacific roster, but the team captain.
While plenty of voters were simply laughing at how irrelevant the NHL All-Star game is, at some point people started to take a serious look at the man. Scott was likely chosen at random as one of the countless hockey players with a thoroughly unimpressive career, but the fact remained that he had dedicated his life to the game. He had risen through the ranks to actually achieve a dream of playing in the world’s premier hockey league, a dream millions of people share, but will never attain. Then Scott spoke up.
“It’s one of those things where I never thought I’d be able to get to go, so when I found out it was a possibility my family was like, ‘you have to go. It’s going to be so cool,'” Scott told Yahoo Sports. “They’re excited for it — probably more excited than I am. It’ll be one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences.”
Even if Scott simply got to skate onto the ice, wave to the fans, and get a few minutes of playing time, the story would’ve been inspiring. But the league’s displeasure at the vote was seemingly too much, as both the NHL and his team at the time, the Arizona Coyotes, asked Scott to bow out of the game, but he refused.
The journey took an ugly turn when the Coyotes traded him to Montreal, who promptly sent him down to their AHL affiliate, eliminating him from All-Star eligibility just weeks before the All-Star game.
Fans and sports media reacted with outrage, eventually pressuring the NHL to back down and allow Scott to play. Again, the story would’ve been noteworthy had it just ended there. But on Sunday night, the unthinkable happened.
John Scott, a man who has scored zero goals in 6 of his 9 NHL seasons, netted two goals past the league’s best, led the Pacific team to the All-Star tournament victory, and earned the title of Most Valuable Player. We’re not making this up, folks. It happened.
The night belonged to John Scott, there was no question about it. The crowd exploded each time he found the back of the net, and cheered him on as he got in a mock fight with Patrick Kane.
At the end of the tournament, his fellow players lifted Scott on their shoulders.
Scott was joined at the game by family and friends cheering for him all the way. One of the game’s most heartwarming moments came when Pacific coach Darryl Sutter’s son, Christopher, who has Down Syndrome, was one of the first to celebrate with the MVP.
Scott’s wife, Danielle, talked about his journey after the game. Danielle, who is pregnant with twins, said she had to calm herself down after Scott’s second goal.
“We’ve just been so overwhelmed by so much support. It’s just… I’m going to tear up just talking about it. I’m so pregnant and emotional,” Danielle said. “It’s been amazing.”
The magical night was likely Scott’s one and only trip to the NHL All-Star game. He might not even return to the NHL at all, but for a man who has dedicated his life to hockey, who worked tirelessly in relative obscurity simply out of love for the game, he exemplified the very best that sports can bring out of us.
And at the end of the night, the hero capped it off with a skate around the ice with his daughters, both sporting matching jerseys. The name on the back: DADDY.