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How John Scott went from All–Star controversy to MVP, explained

Despite being traded and demoted to the minors, John Scott played in the NHL All–Star Game and shined. 

After months of drama over his All-Star status, veteran enforcer John Scott was able to participate in the 2016 NHL All–Star Game as the captain of the Pacific Division team.

Scott, the quintessential hockey goon, was voted into the game by the fans, but then traded and banished to the minor-league hinterlands of St. John’s, Newfoundland, leading to widespread outrage. But Scott's story has a happy ending. 

Who is John Scott?

Scott is a 33-year-old, 6'8" enforcer with five goals, six assists and 542 penalty minutes in 285 NHL games for six teams over eight seasons. He’s averaged about seven minutes of ice time per game as a pro. He’s played just 11 NHL games this year for the Coyotes and hasn’t stepped on the ice since the All-Star voting results were released on Jan. 2. In other words, not really All-Star material.

Then how did he end up getting voted in?

Back in November, Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek joked on the Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast with Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski that it would be funny to see Scott in the All-Star Game’s new 3-on-3 format. (Marek and Wyshynski talked about their role in the Scott drama on their podcast this Monday.) It snowballed from there, with people on Reddit, Twitter and elsewhere pushing for Scott’s candidacy. When the voting closed, he had received more votes than any other player.

How did the NHL feel about that?

The league had said it would provide weekly updates on the voting, as it has done in previous years, but once Scott took over the top spot, the updates stopped. David Poile, the general manager of the All-Star host Nashville Predators, told Yahoo in December that Scott making the team “would be, with all due respect, not an appropriate situation.”

How did Scott feel?

Scott was sheepish at first, telling in early December that he didn’t think he deserved to be voted in and hoped he wouldn’t be. But he warmed to the situation eventually, and even had T-shirts made to give to his All-Star teammates. 

“I am looking forward to enjoying a fun and unique experience at All-Star Weekend in Nashville with my family,” Scott said in a statement when the NHL announced he would remain on the ASG roster.

He also has plenty of motivation to play in and win the All-Star Game. Scott’s salary this season is $575,000 and the winning All-Star team gets $1 million, or $90,000 per player. That’s 15% of Scott’s salary. For a guy whose wife is expecting twins any day now, that’s not a small sum.

In a piece on The Players’ Tribune, Scott discussed how he never dreamed he would be in the NHL, let alone an All-Star. He also confirmed what had been suspected—that the NHL tried to convince him to drop out of the game. 

It means a lot to my family.

So when someone from the NHL calls me and says, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”

… That’s when they lost me.

That was it, right there. That was the moment.

Because, while I may not deserve to be an NHL All-Star, I know I deserve to be the judge of what my kids will — and won’t — be proud of me for.

Why was his ASG participation in doubt?

Well, first the Coyotes demoted Scott to the minors last week, but the team said it was just a temporary measure. But then Arizona dealt Scott to the Canadiens in a trade that seemed pretty fishy

First of all, the deal was announced late on a Friday afternoon. Also, Scott was immediately demoted to Montreal’s AHL team. Are the Habs really in need of a minor-league enforcer? TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the trade was likely to keep Scott out of the game in Nashville, fueling conspiracy theories that the deal had been orchestrated by the NHL. 

Scott steals the show in Nashville

Scott played on the Pacific Division squad in the 3-on-3 tournament in Nashville on Jan. 31. 

The enforcer scored twice during Game 1 of the tournament when the Pacific team defeated the Central team 9–6, earning a spot in the final game. Scott received a standing ovation from the crowd after his first goal. 

The Pacific team, led by Scott, won the championship game, beating the Atlantic team 1–0. 

Despite not being a named a finalist for MVP of the All-Star Game, Scott was awarded the honor as a write-in candidate. Ten NHL teams casted a vote for Scott on Twitter, including the Edmonton Oilers, who voted for him over their own player, Taylor Hall.

Scott appeared surprised when his name was announced as the MVP.

Scott received a car for winning MVP, while each player on the Pacific team received nearly $91,000 of the $1 million prize for winning the tournament. His All–Star teammates hoisted him on their shoulders to celebrate his performance. 

Fellow NHL players and All-Stars took to Twitter to congratulate the MVP.