GLENDALE, ARIZONA — John Scott's name was trending among the top 10 on Twitter in the United States late Friday afternoon, but—just like always in the whole sordid mess that surrounded his being voted into the NHL's upcoming All-Star Game—for all the wrong reasons.
It's not a tragedy what happened to John Scott, who was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, per ESPN.com. He's a grown man who has made a nice living as a fringe NHL player the last eight years, who has a degree in engineering from Michigan Tech to fall back on, a wife, and who, by all projections, will be a father soon to two healthy twin babies.
But John Scott is a man who was badly hurt Friday morning—a man who entered the Gila River Arena here fully expecting to resume his role as a player with the Arizona Coyotes but who left soon after, according to two people who saw him, looking "devastated" and "upset." He was the victim of a well-intended joke all gone wrong.
First, a recap as to why he might have felt this way: Scott, 33, was the runaway winner of the Internet fan vote, sponsored by the NHL's own website, to be the captain of the Pacific Division in a new 3-on-3 format for the Jan. 31 All-Star Game in Nashville. Scott originally expressed embarrassment over it all, which was the right response from a guy who barely played for the Coyotes, who was increasingly seen as an endangered species in the NHL—the enforcer who had little value beyond his size (6'8", 260 lbs) and toughness.
But in the end, a lot of people, in their various personal and professional entities, failed John Scott. He is the latest victim, of sorts, of a social-media culture that likes to serve people up just for the yuks, but don't slow to think of the unintended consequences.
When Scott continued to win in a landslide, and when public sentiment seemed to say, "Hey, it's OK, we want you there, it'll be fun for us as much as you," he came around to saying, in effect, "OK, hey, if that's what the people want, I'll do it!"
But on Friday, three days after being placed on waivers by the Coyotes for the third time this season, Scott was sent to the Habs in a three-way deal that ultimately sent Stefan Elliott to Nashville and Jarred Tinordi to Arizona. The Canadiens announced Scott would be sent to their AHL affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps. Subsequent reports, including one from TVA's Renaud Lavoie, said Scott would "never" play for Montreal.
Imagine the class clown getting set up with the best-looking person from the opposite sex, thinking it was real, then having it yanked away by laughing schoolmates. That's probably a little how Scott felt Friday.
Bob McKenzie of TSN, probably the biggest heavyweight NHL reporter in the world, tweeted his belief that the Coyotes and the NHL asked Scott to politely decline the nomination of the fans, and when he refused, plans were set in motion to make his All-Star inclusion an impossibility.
Talking with people around the Coyotes, after this all happened but before McKenzie's tweets, a picture was painted that essentially backs him up. Upper hockey personnel among the Coyotes assumed Scott would decline the All-Star invite, they said, which would clear the way for him to graciously hand off his roster spot to a more deserving player such as Shane Doan or Max Domi or Mikkel Boedker or Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Scott could then say to the public, "Hey, I appreciate y'all, but this guy deserves it more," and then be a hero to his teammates. But then he actually went through the acceptance of the vote and explained to Yahoo Sports' Josh Cooper, "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.' ... It'll be one of those 'once-in-a-lifetime' experiences." Wheels were set in motion from there to kill the fun.
In my experiences covering hockey, it's the media and management who care more about this kind of stuff than the players. Sitting down with venerable Coyotes captain Shane Doan on Friday morning, I got zero sense Scott's acceptance of the All-Star nomination was any big deal to his room.
"He is such a big personality, such a fun guy," Doan said. "It is what it is. It's never a fun part of this business. We really, really enjoyed getting to know him."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly did not respond to messages left by Bleacher Report regarding the Scott situation. I asked Coyotes general manager Don Maloney after the trade whether the All-Star situation had become an unwelcome distraction to his team.
Bob McKenzie @TSNBobMcKenzie
John Scott was previously asked by both NHL and Arizona Coyotes to bow out of NHL All-Star Game. He refused. Trade likely takes care of that1/15/2016, 9:55:07 PM
"No, not a distraction at all. It was sort of, what I would say, was a lighthearted event," Maloney said.
But if you read between the lines from some of Maloney's following words, you get the sense he thought the whole thing was foolish all along, probably, an embarrassing situation for the team.
"Originally, when John started getting some votes, I think everybody was happy for him. As it went along and he kept getting more votes, then it just became sort of a running...ah, ah...it wasn't a distraction at all," Maloney said.
"A running joke" is probably what Maloney wanted to say.
That's what Scott was all along, the butt of a joke—only it seems he started to believe it had the best of intentions toward the end.
Scott would not return messages to his cell phone Friday night. The system failed Scott in this case, and at the head of the blame list is:
First and, by far, foremost: the NHL itself. It is the entity that put a system in place whereby fans could vote in anyone—anyone at all.
Seriously, how dumb do you have to be to incorporate a voting system that allows anyone to be elected? Sure, this is a democracy, and sure, it's only sports. But, actually, sports is not a democracy. It is a meritocracy. There has to be a benchmark for inclusion on the ballot. Otherwise, it's not a game for the best of the best. In the Scott situation, it became a circus sideshow.
Don't allow guys like Scott to be eligible for the vote, only to disenfranchise the voters later. You can't have it both ways. It made a farce not only of Scott, but also the process itself. And the league rightly wears the dunce cap over this one—big-time.
According to ace Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman (via Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports), the league will junk the "everyone gets to vote for anyone" system next year. One year too late.
Secondly, there's the media. Some in the "media"—an all-encompassing word now that includes the best and the brightest and the dumb and the dumbest—thought it would be a kick to start a "John Scott for the All-Star Game!" petition.
Finally, the fans are on this list. Hey, we're all fans, right? And we're all immune to prosecution from the same media that exploits us on a regular basis. But, seriously, don't ever call yourself a true hockey fan if you just clicked on a box with John Scott's name next to it. Even he said it was wrong.
OK, a little fun is fine. But the fact is Scott was slated to be at the game, and Sidney Crosby wasn't. It would have been pure exploitation.
Everyone got what they deserved in this story.
Everyone...except John Scott. He deserved much better than this.
Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him @Adater.
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