NASHVILLE — Coming into the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, there was one central theme at play:
Nobody knew how this was going to play out.
Nobody knew how the league’s new initiative, a 3-on-3 mini-tournament, would go.
Nobody knew how a weekend without superstars like Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews in attendance would go.
And nobody — nobody — knew how this John Scott thing would go.
Including the man himself.
“I never, in a million years, believed I would’ve been in an All-Star Game,” Scott said, after capturing the most improbable MVP award in the event’s history. “To have the fans get behind me like that, to score two goals in a game, you can’t put it into words.
“You can’t write this stuff. It’s unbelievable how it happened.”
Unbelievable, yes. The lead-up certainly was.
First, Scott had to endure an online ballot-stuffing initiative from fans that seemed interested in both laughing with him… and at him.
Once voted in, there were cries to get him out. He’d ruin the integrity of the contest. Five goals in 285 career games? Players of his ilk didn’t belong.
They called him a goon — and, as we learned this week, there’s hardly a term more derogatory in his lexicon — and said he’d be embarrassed. Worse, his kids might be.
Then he was sent packing from Arizona to Montreal in a trade that reeked like Limburger.
“Enforcers don’t get traded midseason when their team is winning,” Scott said in his explosive Players’ Tribune piece. “If you know the league, you know that it just doesn’t happen.”
But then, the tide turned. The NHL said he was welcome to participate in Nashville, even though he was plying his trade in the American League.
And not long after Scott literally wrote his own story in the Tribune, he took control of how others penned the narrative.
Friday’s media availability at Bridgestone was a masterclass in public relations, in that it wasn’t a masterclass at all. None of it felt calculated, or planned — Scott was genuine, earnest, honest and funny, and it was all on display, in front of a massive media contingent that got to hear all the complexities stashed in his 6-foot-8, 270-pound frame.
He said he hated that people saw him as “an animal,” instead of “a family guy that’s worked his way up.”
He said he’d stay up nights worrying about his next fight.
He acknowledged the enforcer role he’s filled for the last eight years is going the way of the dodo. Yet he remained steadfast in his support of the tough guy, the grinder, the guy that’s willing to stick up for his teammates.
After winning the MVP, he re-iterated as much.
“You just work with what you have,” he explained. “I was given a few tools — my size, my strength, and I’ve worked on those. I worked my tail off throughout my career. I’ve been cut many times, sent down, this and that.
“If you’re a grinder or a fighter or a checker, go with it. Things will work out.”
Things certainly worked out this weekend.
One of the points Scott re-iterated throughout this event was that, y’know, he could actually play hockey — and on Sunday, it certainly looked that way, bagging a pair of goals while taking regular shifts against the best players on the planet.
And with that, the narrative around John Scott shifted once again.
He’s now forever immortalized among the elite, joining a list of All-Star MVPs that includes the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux. His helmet is off to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Endorsement deals are starting to come in.
For a guy that claimed you can’t write stuff like this, John Scott sure did a good job of telling his own story.