John Scott has been a fighter for years. He showed this week he won’t be pushed around, even by his employer.
You may have already known that the NHL is a manipulative bully, but reading Scott’s own delicately chosen words on how the league tried to coax him out of participating in this weekend’s showcase of the stars brings the awareness to a whole new level.
If what Scott wrote is true, the NHL should be embarrassed. Ashamed of the way it treated one of its employees. Humiliated by its ineffectiveness in planning, executing and reacting to the All-Star fan vote. Mortified the details are trickling out.
The league hasn’t responded, and until it does—if it can somehow find a way to craft a message anyone will be able to stomach without choking on the oozing desperation of damage control—only Scott and certain NHL officials know the whole truth.
But Scott has little reason at this point to be less than honest. His words will gain him sympathy and maybe some respect from the masses, but won’t extend his NHL career, which has almost certainly already hit its expiration date.
Scott wrote about this month’s trade and how it appeared it was the NHL's intention to make him ineligible to play in the All-Star tournament. He openly offered some of the colorful language that ran through his head and out his mouth when being told he would be joining Montreal’s minor league affiliate in Newfoundland.
It was, in Scott’s opinion, the ultimate result of his refusal to bend to the NHL’s wishes and take a pass on the tongue-in-cheek honor hockey fans bestowed on him with an Internet vote that ended with the former Arizona Coyotes forward captaining the Pacific Division team for the three-on-three pond-hockey extravaganza.
To his credit, and perhaps at the behest of the NHL, Scott even tried to downplay his election to the big game and his admittedly non-deserved role in it, as the Coyotes tweeted this statement out on his behalf in December:
But more disgusting than the league's seemingly orchestrated move were its apparent pleas to have Scott bow out, appealing to his sense of pride as a player and as a father. This is where things get psychologically sickening.
When someone from the NHL calls me and says, "Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?" That’s when they lost me. That was it, right there. That was the moment. Because, while I may not deserve to be an NHL All-Star, I know I deserve to be the judge of what my kids will—and won’t—be proud of me for.
Common decency suggests never bringing kids into a fight.
By trying to embarrass Scott, who literally has had to fight for his job in the NHL the past nine years, the league has only shamed itself and further alienated its employees and fans.
Perhaps the league didn’t realize Scott is an engineering graduate from Michigan Tech University. Maybe it thought he has taken so many blows to the head that he couldn’t see the manipulation for what it was.
The league has classes. There are the stars and there are the plugs—and apparently, the plugs can’t be celebrated.
Scott noted the support he’s received from his peers has been nothing but positive.
“If the league thought this was an embarrassment, pretty much all of the players I’ve encountered have thought otherwise. I’ve gotten texts from so many guys saying the same thing: ‘You should go,’” he wrote.
Instead of spinning the fan vote into something lighthearted and entertaining, the NHL tried to muscle and manipulate its way out of a situation it got itself into with poor planning. The hijacking of an All-Star vote? No, that could never happen if the league opened it up to all players. How quickly the Rory Fitzgerald campaign from 2007 is forgotten.
The NHL didn't have the foresight to know what could go wrong with the model it set up. And when it did, the league should have played along with the fans and enjoyed the ride and attention.
John Scott’s All-Star T-shirt is sold out on NHL.com. If the league embraced this thing from the start, it could have had bobbleheads, signed sticks, action figures...
But that would make the All-Star weekend fun. And fun, apparently, is not in the NHL’s vocabulary.
Let’s hope "apology" is.