Kissing fish, drinking rum: John Scott enjoying life as an AHL celeb


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) There were still some nine minutes remaining in the third period when the excited mob of youngsters began gathering outside the St. John’s IceCaps locker-room door.

John Scott had just skated off after picking up a 10-minute misconduct for playing a minor role in a scuffle, and the antsy kids were tripping over themselves in hopes to catch a glimpse of the NHL’s unlikeliest All-Star Game MVP.

“I think I saw him!” someone gasped, peering through the dimly lit maze of iron supports beneath the dusty stands of Syracuse’s War Memorial Arena before a security person shooed them away. The scene was no different the night before, when extra security personnel were called in for crowd control.

This is what Scott’s life has become in the aftermath of the hand-wringing controversy over whether the bit-playing journeyman enforcer was worthy of being deemed an all-star after being voted in by fans. The 6-foot-8 gentle giant instead emerged as an overnight sensation, earning admiration from fans and fellow players alike for standing his ground in the face of doubters and critics.

“It’s almost like a movie,” a smiling Scott said, reflecting back on the past two months. “Honestly, no one could ever script this would happen.”

And yet, there is a movie in the works, which is also something Scott could never have envisioned.

“I’m a super lucky guy with all that’s happened,” he said.

If that sounds odd, it should: One moment in January, Scott was trying on his personalized pair of All-Star gloves in Arizona. The next, the Coyotes traded Scott to Montreal, where he was immediately shipped to the American Hockey League’s remotest outpost in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. That’s 1,000 miles from Montreal and more than, 3,000 from Phoenix.

A few weeks later, the 33-year-old Scott was being hoisted on his teammates’ shoulders amid fans chanting “M-V-P!” after he captained the NHL’s Pacific Division team to an all-star title in Nashville, Tennessee.

All of this began as the most difficult time in Scott’s career, in which the defining moment occurred when he said an NHL official questioned whether his daughters would be proud of him playing in the game. And it ended with Scott winning over everyone’s hearts, because, after all, who doesn’t love an underdog story?

“I get letters from people, and it really touches you, and sometimes it chokes me up,” Scott said. “It’s like (they write): `I watched you in the All-Star game and you were an inspiration, and I just want to thank you for turning my life around.”‘

Scott hasn’t missed a beat in St. John’s, a quaint fishing community that’s as close to Ireland as it is to Minnesota, where Scott broke into the NHL with the Wild in 2008-09

“As soon as I got there, everybody was super friendly,” he said. “I walk down the street and it’s, `Hey, John. Congrats. Hey, we’ll meet you for a beer later.’ It’s so fun. I love that city.”

And yes, Scott has been, as the locals put it, “screeched in.”

It’s a long-held rite of passage for newcomers to kiss a fish (usually a cod), drink a shot of rum (known as screech) and recite a saying that ends with “long may your big jib draw,” which translates to: “May your sails always catch wind.”

He’s also quickly adapted to his new team.

The big forward, who has two goals and two assists in 21 games through last weekend, plays a regular shift, including a role on the power play. He can also double as a defenseman, as happened Sunday when St. John’s Brett Lernout was ejected in the first period.

“It’s not an easy situation for him, but he’s making the most of it,” IceCaps coach Sylvain Lefebvre said. “He’s a big brother, as he should be in the locker room. And the guys enjoy being around him. That’s a big tribute to him.”

Scott is a physical player, but doesn’t go out of his way to get into a fight. He won’t, however, hesitate to get in the middle of scuffles if it means protecting a teammate.

The most amusing moment on Sunday came shortly before he picked up his 10-minute major. With a scuffle erupting next to him, Scott skated over and matched up with the only Syracuse player without a partner. It happened to be 5-foot-9 defenseman Matt Taormina.

At one point, Taormina looked up and made a joke, to which Scott responded by hugging him. Then, Taormina reached up and playfully gave Scott a face wash with his glove, which prompted a smile from Scott, and cheer from the crowd.

“Everybody wants me to be this bad guy,” Scott said. “It’s like, `There’s John, this mean guy. He’s like a goon. He’s not smart.’ And that’s just not who I am. I’m a nice guy.”

Scott has never pretended to be anything more than being a role player. He’s earned a professional paycheck because he poses a big, intimidating on-ice presence. He has just five goals and 11 points to go along with 542 penalty minutes in 285 NHL games.

What many don’t know about him is that he earned an engineering degree at Michigan Tech, and many of his current and former teammates regard him to be one of the game’s funniest characters.

The St. John’s road trip through central New York allowed Scott to reunite with his wife, Danielle, who made the drive from Michigan with their kids, including newborn twins, Sofia and Estelle. She was amazed to see how fans are drawn to her husband.

“We were down at breakfast, and some guy was talking to him,” she said. “I was like, `Was that one of your coaches?’ And he said, `No, it’s just everybody recognizes me where ever I go.”‘

“It’s just funny,” she added. “What ended up being one of our hardest moments turns into the greatest beyond what we ever could have expected.”

Though he’d love to continue playing, Scott isn’t sure what comes next once his contract expires after this season.

At the very least, he will always be known as an NHL All-Star.

“Yeah, an MVP All-Star,” he said, correcting someone.

And there’s the SUV he was awarded for it, and his share of $1 million prize that went with being on the winning team.

“I haven’t gotten it yet,” Scott said, referring to the money.

“That’s actually a good question. I’ve got to follow up with them on that one,” he added, with a carefree shrug before ducking back into the locker room.

With the game over, a crowd once again gathered outside the IceCaps’ door. Still in his T-shirt and shorts, Scott made a quick detour by heading into the now-empty stands. Using his long legs, he climbed over row after row of seats to be with his family.

They eventually ducked into a hallway, where Scott’s two oldest daughters, dressed in IceCaps jerseys, danced around, tightly holding their proud and happy father’s hands.

“You know what, even if the whole thing didn’t go down the way it did, I’m not going to complain,” Scott said. “I was super lucky before all this stuff. But after this, it’s like, holy. I must have six or seven angels looking out for me. I’m so blessed.”

Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

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FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

“Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

“Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

“Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

Robertson will finally be there now.

Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

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The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.


Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

“I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.


The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

“He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”


Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

“I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

“He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

“This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”


Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

“Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”


The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

“He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.