John Scott will be at this year’s NHL All-Star Game. Sidney Crosby will not.
What a time to be alive…
Fan voting for all-star games, in all of North America’s four major sports leagues (NHL, MLB, NBA, NFL) has been often criticized. Though it appears the NHL is the only one who falls victim, for lack of a better term, to over-zealous fans looking for a laugh, instead of looking to cast actual, honest votes. Fans who would rather make a borderline mockery of the system than they would uphold the concept that being named an all-star is intended to be an honour. Just ask 18-time NHL all-star Wayne Gretzky, an example that when your career is all said and done, all-star game appearances are used as a measure of your legacy in the sport.
Enter John Scott, who with all due respect, hasn’t exactly earned the right to say he was even a 1-time all-star. A grand total of eleven career points, boasting one assist and six shots on goal in eleven games played this season (much of which was spent on the bench) and an average of around six minutes of ice time, it’s safe to say Scott would go unnoticed in the history of the game. But, not only was he voted into the all-star game, he was made captain of the Pacific Division, of which he was a member at the time.
Now sometimes a fan might want to see a certain player in the showcase because even if they haven’t been a star this season, they have been consistently in the past. Or perhaps it’s their pre-determined last season in the league, or the host city is one in which they were born or spent several years playing in as a fan favourite.
John Scott ticks none of these boxes. The only one he seems to tick is the way-too-wordy “Wouldn’t it be funny to see a 6-foot-8, 260-lb enforcer try to keep up in a 3-on-3 tournament?” box, or the “Let’s make the NHL All-Star Game funny if it can’t be fun” box.
Scott admitted that he knew the voting trail for him started off as a joke, but whether or not he’s aware that some might be intending to laugh at him, instead of with him, he decided to embrace it.
And that’s okay; fair enough that he wants to have fun with an opportunity that he knows won’t come to him again. But what doesn’t seem fair is the NHL taking all of the blame, while the fans who made this happen are almost completely absolved of it. It seems to only be the NHL who is subjected to fans casting ‘silly’ votes, just as they did in 2007 with Vancouver’s Rory Fitzpatrick, though that campaign didn’t end up successful. This year though, the NHL couldn’t dance around the Scott situation as much as they wanted to, or allegedly tried to. For the way they were perceived to have handled the situation, the NHL ended up being criticized for wanting their game to be treated with more respect, to which they have every right. Why would they just be cool with their showcase event being mocked, or “trolled”? Other leagues’ all-star games seem to garner more respect. MLB’s voters, despite the league’s decision to have their all-star game have implications on the World Series, a move that remains controversial thirteen years after its inception (though, it encouraged the teams to play for the win, at the expense of some stars being left out), uphold the process with veneration. The NBA is concerned enough with having the right players in the game, that 2016 host city Toronto may have trouble getting two Raptors there, compared to the NHL’s relatively quick inclusion of three Predators in host city Nashville’s game (granted, factors such as roster size play a part).
The truth is, fans of each sport have gripes with all four all-star games, especially with the NFL and NHL as they’re viewed as the biggest examples of shells of their previous form, with physical play effectively removed.
Though, let us not forget where all of this started, as fans often fall under the mentality of “the customer is always right”. It’s always easier to blame an entity with a face (or logo), than a horde of faceless, nameless fans, but it might be time to cut the NHL some slack. Don’t think for a second the NBA, NFL, or MLB wouldn’t have responded in kind if their events were treated in the same manner. In fact we can probably expect changes to the voting system across leagues, starting next season.
And thus John Scott will likely be forever remembered as the man who changed all-star voting… or maybe just the guy who falls on his own at an all-star game.
~Written by Mohamed Jaffer