Friday, January 15, 2016

John Scott's All-Star Weekend has been Stuffed

       John Scott was voted into the 2016 NHL All-Star Game by the fans. Yes, the campaign to vote him in started with prodding from a couple of successful podcasts as well as the internet muscle known as Reddit, but he was voted as a Captain just as Jaromir Jagr, Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane were. And now, after his trade to the Montreal Canadiens and supposed banishment to St. John's, Newfoundland, he won't be going at all. The timing, and the circumstances behind this whole vote and now this trade seems incredibly shady, and the NHL does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. At all.

       Whatever you think of John Scott as a hockey player, or as an All-Star, he was voted in by the fans. Immediately after he was announced as a Captain, speculation mounted almost immediately as to what the NHL might do to get themselves out of a messy situation. After Scott decided against bowing out after the NHL "kindly" asked him to, this trade now takes care of that. And based on this tweet from Bob McKenzie, draw conclusions at your own risk:

      Scott was already sent to the AHL, but recently called back up, and had every intention of going to Nashville. It would have been a great weekend for his family (provided the media didn't make him look like the village idiot), and he would have had a chance to make a little extra coin, which is never a bad thing. And now the league is denying him an earned opportunity because of perceived embarrassment to the shield? Doesn't it look worse that there was a trade that quietly shuttled him out of his division and to the NHL coincidentally to put this problem away? At least during "Vote for Rory", ballot stuffing is a legitimate (if equally shady) excuse. Dropping this trade on a Friday afternoon doesn't help matters either.

     Many fans, include this scribe, would have enjoyed watching John Scott at the All-Star Game, and not for comedic value. Yes, watching John Scott skate against Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin would have looked ridiculous, but Scott is a man who immortalized one of his rare goals, by putting it on a shirt. He seems to be a man that can take a joke. It's now quite obvious that the NHL can't. The All-Star game isn't sacred, nor is it entirely necessary, and John Scott in the game drew far more intrigue than the format switch to 3 on 3 ever will. With the Winter Classic and the Outdoor Games slowly becoming the league's showcase events, the All-Star Game is a chance to let loose and have a little fun. The fantasy draft last year with Nick Foligno and Jonathan Toews was some of the most fun ever at an NHL All-Star game, and this is the league that denied Johnny Gaudreau a chance to light his stick on fire during the Breakaway Challenge.

     It seems the NHL is actively trying to kill its own buzz, which in an age when buzz drives everything, including TV ratings and web clicks, is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Whatever the view on the geek being named Homecoming King is, usually the King doesn't have his crown prematurely taken away because of an "image crisis". NHL: No hockey fan is embarrassed or ashamed of "John Scott- NHL All Star": it's you.

    And in order to prevent a situation like this from happening again, as if this was some great electoral fraud, they will take even more power away from the fans who this weekend is really for by further limiting their influence. It's as if a league that needs attention more than any other in an era of fragmentation actively wants to alienate the core fanbase and take away the intrigue from a game that's losing it rapidly.

   If the NHLPA can file a grievance for this situation, they should. And fans should air their grievances by not watching the game at all. Vote with your remotes, vote with your feet. Tell the NHL what you think about a situation that they made worse entirely because of a problem that never existed to begin with.

   Rumor has it that the All-Star Game is making way soon to a "Ryder Cup" style event. It can't come soon enough.

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