*If you’d rather not read through my whole post, you can scroll to the end where I link to the article pictured above that inspired my post and is really worth a read.
Not really sure how I didn’t hear about this before this weekend, other than scrolling through facebook the other day and seeing the headline that “John Scott All-Star jerseys sold out, you’ll have to settle for Patrick Kane.” At the time, I thought who the heck is John Scott; I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him; and why are we “settling” for league-leader-in-points-goals-and-assists Kane? But then realizing, while I recognize a lot of big names, I can’t possibly know them all. Besides, a name like John Scott is about as generic as John Smith – not necessarily one that’s going to stick in your head like Pekka Rinne or TJ Oshie – so maybe it was just me and my horrible memory. I scrolled on.
Then, as I was watching the Skills Competition, they kept making a big deal about Scott being there, and talking about how the fans and players have really embraced him. I’m starting to wonder what the heck is so special about this guy? And they’re joking around (as they’re want to do; All-Star weekend is 1st and foremost about having fun) about what events he’ll be taking part in, and how he’s not a big goal-scorer. I’m thinking, ok, 5 goals on the season? not great, but he is a defenceman. No. It’s 5 career goals – wait, what?!
At this point, I’m really starting to wonder what in the world is going on. So, I google it. I see a couple interviews: they ask how he’s handling it; Scott says it’s been pretty crazy, but all in all he’s happy for the chance to play. I’m still not quite sure what the whole story is here. But then I start to get the big picture: I find an article describing how fans starting voting for him as a joke, and then he’s traded and sent to the minors, making him ineligible to participate in the All-Star weekend, but that fan backlash ultimately made the NHL reconsider and allow Scott to play (as a team captain, no less).
So, okay, Scott really probably shouldn’t be there as an All-Star, and I’m not a bad fan for not knowing his name (and yes, he did play for the Blackhawks 5 years ago, when I first started getting into hockey. But really, do you remember every player from your favorite team from 5 years earlier when you were still learning about the game?). Everything is starting to make sense: why Scott is a bigger talking point than most of the other players (pretty much all of whom I’m familiar with to some extent), why it’s important that the players have made him feel welcomed, why the fan support is so huge (remember, the votes started out because he is a “bad” player).
But what really made me – someone decidedly against fighting and excessive physicality in hockey, someone who just wants to watch a good, clean game and was rather proud of the fact that the 2013-2014 Hawks had about half as many hits against their Western Conference Finals opponent, the LA Kings – what made me a fan of this big, bad enforcer that I’d never heard of was his article for The Players’ Tribune “A Guy Like Me” . It makes you realize that while you might not like a player because he’s really good when he plays against your team, or maybe you don’t like his playing style, they are all, for the most part, pretty good guys. They’re NHL players who’ve earned their spots, and as such deserve our respect as players and people. Even the ones that are 6’8″ and whose main role in the game is to make the other team hurt. It’s not like they are jerks with slicked back hair playing for Team Iceland in D2: The Mighty Ducks. Those guys are just evil and we can hate them to our hearts’ content.