The Unlikeliest of Heroes

Nashville, TN, United States / The Game Nashville
The Unlikeliest of Heroes

The word “goon” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a stupid person; one who is hired to threaten, beat up, or kill someone.”

That term has been used to define 33-year old journeyman forward John Scott his entire professional career.

In eight years in the National Hockey League, Scott has played in only 285 career games and scored a total of five goals. He is not known so much for his prowess on the ice, but rather as an enforcer; a player that will drop the gloves at any moment and deliver punishment in the form of a fist to the face.

So, in an effort to encourage fan participation, the NHL opened up the All-Star voting to the public in December. And, as fans in All-Star Game voting have been known to do, the fans decided they were going to have some fun with it.

As of December 2nd, the man leading all NHL players in All-Star votes was Scott. At that point in the season, Scott had played in six games and had accrued one point and 18 penalty minutes.

An All-Star? Hardly.

And, yet, the joke continued on with Scott at it’s center for no other reason besides the appeal of making a mockery of the NHL’s All-Star Game.

Who among us could say we would not enjoy seeing this “goon” cause a raucous in a meaningless hockey game among the sport’s best players?

That is when the the NHL and a good deal of the individuals who cover it decided they were going to take themselves entirely too seriously.

The bashing of Scott as an All-Star began with individuals such as NBC Sports’ NHL analyst Jeremy Roenick stating Scott lacked class for even considering not bowing out of the game and that he’d be  as out of place at the All-Star Game “as the only white guy at the Million Man March.”

But Scott was the person who lacked class, right?

The voting closed, and Scott was named officially as an All-Star Captain.

Scott, seemingly overwhelmed by all the attention, went on record saying that he did not think he had earned an All-Star nod and that he did not particularly favor being the butt of the public’s joke. No one really bothered to pay attention to that, though.

Then, on January 15th, one of the most dastardly events in the NHL’s history occurred.

John Scott, All-Star captain, was traded  to the Montreal Canadiens in a league-orchestrated plan to exploit a technicality in the All-Star Game rules.

After it was reported that both the NHL and his former team, the Arizona Coyotes, had asked Scott to “bow out” of the All-Star Game, the trade to the Canadiens took care of the NHL’s problem because his new team immediately sent him down to the AHL, where he would be ineligible to participate in All-Star Weekend.

As so many professional athletes have done recently, Scott took to The Players’ Tribune to pen his own thoughts on the events of the the past couple months.

The result was breathtaking.

“I try not to think about how young my daughters are, and how much they’ll hate the move,” Scott wrote of the recent trade. “Or about the stress it will place on my wife, who is nine months pregnant with twins. Or about the fondness I feel for the guys in Phoenix — our group that no one believed in — and the pride I feel for what we’ve accomplished together. I try not to think about how I don’t want to leave.”

John Scott (28) is hoisted up by his teammates after beating the Atlantic Division during the championship game of the 2016 NHL All Star Game. Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Here, in the midst of an everyone else’s joke, was an emotional,compassionate human being. A father and husband, whose concern for his family far outweighed what everyone else considered “a slight to the integrity of the game” that was his presence in the All-Star Game.

“And I try not to think about how I should have known.

Or about how my teammate called it — literally called it — way back before all of this got crazy.

How he texted me, “Dude, you’re 30th in the All-Star fan vote,” one night, out of the blue.

And then, how he added:

“They’ll never let you play, John. They’re never going to let you be there.

Not a guy like you.”

Following yesterday’s inaugural NHL All-Star 3-on-3 Tournament, the Pacific Division team, captained by none other than John Scott, won the tournament 1-0 over the Atlantic.

Scott, who scored to goals against the Central in the first game of the tournament, was voted All-Star Game MVP as scores of fans cheered and chanted for someone many considered an NHL nobody only two months ago.

That “goon” was a shining representative of hockey fans everywhere. John Scott’s story evoked an emotional response in people that is not normally associated with the sport he plays.

We should all strive to learn a lesson in humility and work ethic from “a guy like him.”



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