Column: By trying to keep John Scott out of the All-Star game, the NHL created a folk hero

Forward John Scott looks into the stands during the NHL All-Star championship game against the Atlantic Division on Jan. 31, 2016.
(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

The campaign to send Arizona Coyotes enforcer John Scott to the NHL All-Star game last season began as a joke that he didn’t quite get. Known for fighting and not finesse, he had 11 points over eight seasons and was hardly a household name. That changed when an Internet-fueled movement, tapping into fans’ scorn for the All-Star event, exploded and produced enough votes to send him to Nashville as the captain of the Pacific Division team.

Although a trade to Montreal’s top minor-league team could have made him ineligible — and although an NHL executive suggested he decline the All-Star berth — Scott kept his spot. By then he had become an anti-establishment folk hero, a status he cemented when he scored two goals, was named the most valuable player, and was carried off the ice on his teammates’ shoulders. Awaiting him was his happily dazed wife, who was due to give birth to their twin daughters any day.

No matter who’s voted the MVP of Sunday’s All-Star game at Staples Center, that player’s story won’t be as joyfully improbable as Scott’s. It can’t be: The league, burned by Scott’s selection, closed voting loopholes so it couldn’t happen again.

“It all still seems strange. Whenever I look back at it I say, ‘OK that actually did happen,’ ” Scott said in a phone interview. “It was such a strange set of circumstances and how it went down. I think it will always be a little odd to me, just to think back and that it actually did happen.”

Scott played only one more NHL game, for Montreal, and he retired in November. The SUV he won in Nashville comes in handy to carry the twins — born four days after his All-Star feats — and his older daughters, 5 and 3, around town in Traverse City, Mich. Between his family, the book he published in December and his involvement in a planned “Rocky”-type movie about his career and unexpected fame, he’s almost too busy to miss hockey.


“A little bit, but for the most part, no. I’m OK with leaving,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. I’ve got four kids at home and a wife who needs my help so it’s been easy to step away because I have a lot of distractions.”

Scott will be signing the book, “A Guy Like Me: Fighting to Make The Cut,” on Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the Barnes and Noble at the Grove. He also has been involved in preparations for the movie, whose script was written by columnist/author Mitch Albom. Scott has no say in who will play him on the screen, but that doesn’t bother him. “I don’t have a say in anything. I just go with the flow and am a happy bystander,” he said.

Scott said he holds no grudge against the NHL for trying to keep him out of the All-Star game. “Honestly, during the whole thing I was a little bit upset but I never had hard feelings really at all. I’ve moved on,” he said. “The ending is just so cool, how can I feel bad? Me and the league are good.”

He said he was asked about attending Sunday’s game but probably won’t go. “I don’t want to be a distraction,” he said. But he had some advice for those who will participate.

“Just have fun. That’s what I did,” he said. “If you go in there with any idea other than having fun it’s going to be a waste of time. It’s meant to be a good time, so live it up.”

Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen