Damien,

I read your article defending the NHL and putting the onus on John Scott to bow out of the NHL All Star Game (John Scott Can Still Right The Pranksters Wrong). I know you have better resources and first hand information so I could be missing something. I appreciate the passion you have on the topic and I understand your stance. Whether you’re right or wrong, I do wonder if maybe it’s not a little defeatist. You talk as if the NHL did nothing wrong, couldn’t have done anything differently, and has exhausted all options. I think that even as an innocent victim, the NHL still has the chance to be the bigger man so to speak. I’d like to play devil’s advocate to some of your points.

Please bear in mind that I’m not a professional writer with lots of time to research and edit. I want to post this anyway because you as a writer did a great job and incited an emotional response out of me as a reader. This is that response.

You started with:

“The league had invited fans to vote on who should play in the game, apparently doing so in good faith believing that hockey fans would enjoy participating. You know, rather than just having the league name the teams.”

When the league was making the decision to allow fans to vote, there should have been two immediate arguments against that being a good idea. The first is that fans aren’t predictable. There’s no “good faith” here. The fans didn’t enter into this on some sort of gentlemen’s agreement to do the “right” thing. You can’t put the vote into the hands of the fans and expect them to make the same decisions a panel of experts would. Did they have to vote John Scott in? No, but there’s one (or some) in every crowd.
The second, and most important in my mind, is that the fan voting process changes what it means to be an All-Star. 40 players are chosen by the league. There are 40 legitimately recognized players having their fine seasons acknowledged by experts. But there are 44 spots. There are quite a number of players who could be considered 44th best in the NHL this year. Someone who works hard and deserves it more could get noticed by people who’s job it is to watch the entire league and look for players having a better than average year from any market. The problem is the average fan isn’t watching every team, and they’re not going to notice how much improvement most second and third liners have made from one season to the next. Even fans who want to take the fan vote extremely seriously wouldn’t have all the information needed to make good choices. Look at the Academy Awards. No one is going to always agree with the choices of the Academy or even how they select its members, but for the integrity of the awards everyone can agree that the Academy as an entity must exist. Should we ask any actor to not accept a People’s Choice award just because they aren’t Oscar worthy? When the NHL agreed to this process, they agreed to change from the tradition of what it means to be an All Star, so they have to accept that John Scott doesn’t fit the traditional All Star player profile.

“See, the big lie here is that people voted in Scott because they want to see him play three-on-three hockey in the All-Star Game.
The truth is, they did so to make a mockery of the league and the sport. That was the clear objective.”

Are you sure there was a big lie here? I thought everyone knew exactly what was happening as soon as John Scott started getting votes? Not one person has ever made any arguments trying to prove that Scott is deserving of being an All Star on playing merit. Some people may have used the words “I want to see John Scott play three-on-three hockey in the All Star Game”, but if you thought they wanted that to happen for any other reason than to have that be the means by which they make a mockery of the league and the sport then maybe you are the only one on the planet who felt lied to. Like you said “that was the clear objective”. So where’s the lie?

“It was the equivalent of the drunk heckler at a comedy show who keeps insisting he’s only doing it because the comedian is no good, not because he’s drunk and a jerk.”

I know what you’re trying to say, but the heckler isn’t handed a platform for the heckling. The comic is supposed to do the talking. If the comic says “does anyone have anything to say about my jokes?” and opens the door to the audience, then you’ve got your comparison. If that were to happen, sometimes he’d get compliments and sometimes he’d get heckled. Imagine if every time he got heckled he then tried to say “Now people. I let you participate in good faith and this is what you do….”

“…any number of reasonable people approached him to suggest a variety of graceful exits from his predicament…..You know, do the game a solid. And in so doing, allow a deserving teammate like Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Shane Doan to go to Nashville. Everybody wins, and Scott comes out looking like a selfless, classy guy.”

Again, if you want to guarantee only deserving players will go, maybe we shouldn’t have a fan voting process. This is not John Scott’s predicament to exit. As it is, even by saying Arizona HAS to have representation at all means the concept of only choosing worthy All Stars is technically shot. By saying every single team MUST have a player there means that some guy who’s the fourth best player on a top two team and regularly contributes at an All Star level almost definitely won’t be going to the All Star Game because someone from the bottom three teams HAS to go.

“Nope, said Scott to these entreaties as he ticked off another game as a Coyotes healthy scratch, I’m going. This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Is he wrong? You know as well as anyone there’s no other situation where he could ever be given the chance to play at All Star weekend. The NHL more than anyone should understand the sentiment of “it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.” For example, every 4 years the NHL ends up in the same debate about whether it should allow its players to participate in the Olympics. When the players and coaches chime in, their answers very rarely have anything to do with what’s best for Canada, Canadian hockey, or the sanctity of the Olympic Games themselves. Nope. Instead the sentiment is “yes they should send NHL players because it’s such a great opportunity for these guys and they love the experience.” What? Mike Babcock himself, arguably the greatest coach of all time, and man who could have any privilege he wants, said if the NHL stopped sending its players to the Olympics it would be “the biggest mistake the NHL ever made.” He admittedly left financials and other factors out and spoke strictly from a personal standpoint. He stressed how much it meant to him and to his family. He talked glowingly of the experience and you can tell it really and truly mattered to him. These players and coaches who get paid millions of dollars and are treated like kings every single day still show amazing amounts of gratitude and rarely take anything for granted. I think this is awesome and I have a ton of respect for Babcock and others for keeping themselves grounded under extraordinary circumstances. They still have the same feeling toward these opportunities as if it’s their first time.
Now Imagine what it means to someone like John Scott to have the chance to play in an All Star game. Can we really expect him to just brush it off? To take a free pass? I do get what you’re saying here. I really do understand how you folks might want him to step back and say “ok, good one guys. Haha, but I’d really like to do this for my friend —-(insert deserving Arizona player name here). He’s having a great year and I’d love to give him this gift.” That definitely would be a classy thing to do. I can see how you’d WANT him to do that. What I don’t understand is how you think this is what he NEEDS to do. He was voted in by fans and maybe the league should do the classy thing and treat one of their own players like a member of the family. Embrace it. Take away the opportunity of the fans who ruined everything to make a mockery of the NHL not by keeping John Scott out of the All Star Game, but by proving that the game can still be fantastic even with him in it. The NHL is doing itself a disservice and I don’t just mean the perception of the situation with the attempts to sweep Scott under the rug, and then the trade (whatever the reasons may be for it). The league is coming across to many as a power hungry bully by being a power hungry bully. They (and yourself in this very article) have said nothing but bad things about John Scott, assuming he’ll ruin everything about the weekend. You’ve ripped apart his skill and attacked his integrity. Maybe you’re not wrong, but it might be better to take all the money the league offered John Scott in bribes to not participate and spend it instead on a solid PR team to work with him and turn him into the darling of the event. If Gordon Bombay can get a bunch of cake eaters from district 5 on to the US National Team, surely the National Hockey League can walk one misfit through two days of less consequence. Show those jerks of fans that it’s futile to try and take advantage of the voting system because no matter who they vote for, no one in our wonderful game is bad enough to bring down the All Star festivities. As it is, these jerks have been handed an easy out. The NHL has handed them an even easier out than they tried to give John Scott.
You do make a very important point: The league is taking some probably unjustified heat for something it didn’t do. You’re right, the NHL never said John Scott couldn’t participate in the All Star game. But they have made it absolutely crystal clear to anyone and everyone that John Scott SHOULDN’T participate and they don’t want him to. They beat a dead horse to the point where there is no bringing it back, and now everyone knows that if John Scott does participate in the game it will be against the league’s wishes. The NHL alone has allowed these fans to win. Don’t put that on John Scott and make him look like the bad guy for not bowing out at the last minute.

“No, John, it would be the opportunity of a lifetime if you’d in any way, shape or form earned your way there by having a surprisingly good season….. Having an NHL team commit to letting you play on a top line with talented players as a chance to demonstrate you’re more than just a cementhead would be the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Is this not that opportunity? What better way to quickly change the way people see you as a player than by keeping it together for two days in the spotlight skating with the elite players and not making a fool out of yourself? Obviously if he plays, everyone will be watching him for at least the first few shifts. What if all he did was blend in? Wouldn’t that be a great victory for someone like him? In an environment where being a(what did you call him? Cementhead? ) isn’t an option, this is probably the only opportunity he will get to “play on a top line with talented players” and “demonstrate” he can be more. I think you need to look at this more from John Scott’s angle and realize that every way you look at it from his eyes, the answer is play. He didn’t ask for this, he maybe even didn’t want this, but he’d be a fool not to choose to go.

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