Why John Scott Matters

How a minor league hockey player won the hearts of a nation...

You probably don’t know who John Scott is. You almost certainly didn’t know before 2016. But John Scott matters. He matters to young boys and girls who love playing sports, but are never going to be the first pick. He matters to anyone who has been told they’re not good enough, that they don’t belong. Everyone needs to know about John Scott. So, here’s his story:

As a kid growing up in Edmonton, Canada, John played hockey. And to be blunt: he wasn’t good. He got cut from every Junior team. Nobody wanted him; “Too big. Too slow.” He got a shot to play college hockey at Michigan Tech University, a school that had only produced six NHL players. Nobody thought John Scott could be the seventh.

After college, Scott received an offer to play Minor League hockey in the AHL, but his fiancé (now wife) told him “No. No. No way.” He made her a promise: three years of hockey, then he’ll get a “real job.” In his third year, as he was readying himself for retirement, he got the call to play in an NHL game.

Sometimes reality is scripted so perfectly you’d think Aaron Sorkin is writing it in real time.

Something had to go wrong for Scott, and something did.

The game Scott was called to play in was in Canada. Scott, although a Canadian citizen since birth, did not have his passport on him and was unable to board the plane. The game came and went, and so, it appeared, did Scott’s chance to make the NHL.

But if Scott never made it, you wouldn’t be reading this article. A month later, with his dreams seemingly behind him, Scott got another call. This time, the game was in Detroit. No passport needed.

And then a weird thing happened. Scott stuck around. He became an enforcer—someone who fights regularly— but still struggled with being too big, too slow.

Scott (in red/black), playing for Arizona, in a fight during a regular season game this year.

He played for six teams in seven years. He kept moving his family, his wife and two young children. But he was an NHL player. And sure enough, everywhere he went, he became a fan favorite. How could you not love this guy? Yes, he was a goon. But a lovable goon. A humble goon. A hardworking goon. He had made it.

On January 2, 2016, Scott was announced the winner of the NHL All-Star Game fan vote, making him the captain of the Pacific Division team. Scott is not having a good year, statistically. In fact, he has only played in 11 games, usually sitting out as a healthy scratch. What happened next is why you should know John Scott—why he matters.

NHL representatives repeatedly contacted Scott, asking him to remove himself from the All-star Game.

He refused.

They said the All-Star Game isn’t for guys like him. They told him the vote was a joke, and no one wanted to see him in the game. Even his own team, the Arizona Coyotes, asked him not to play.

He refused.

On January 15, 2016, two weeks before the All-Star Game, Arizona traded Scott to the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal immediately sent him back to the minors. Many thought the league would rule Scott, now back in the minors, to be ineligible for the game. But, in response to enormous public support from fans and sports pundits, Scott was announced to be eligible for the game, and serve as the Pacific team’s captain.

Scott, who has scored only 5 career goals in 285 games, went on to score twice in the All-Star Game, leading the Pacific Division to a victory. Despite his performance, the NHL left Scott off the ballot for the All-Star Game MVP. But you know where this is going. You must have caught on by now.

Scott (center) celebrates his second goal of the All-Star Game.
Scott (center) celebrates his second goal of the All-Star Game.

Within minutes after the final game ended, #VoteMVPScott was nationally trending. The official twitter accounts of more than 10 NHL teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, and Detroit Red Wings tweeted out support. Many NHL players, including New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, echoed the same sentiment.

He won the award.

When being interviewed after the game, both on the ice and in a press conference, Scott had the opportunity to trash the league. Throw this in their face.

He didn’t.

He was gracious. He was humble. He acknowledged that in a week, he’d be back in the minors, taking long bus rides to games being played in front of less than 5,000 fans. But Scott told the world how he had lived his dream. How he didn’t let the league take it away from him. He showed everyone, this was a game for people like him.

Scott receiving All-Star Game MVP honors.
Scott receiving All-Star Game MVP honors.

Scott’s helmet and jersey from the All-Star Game were sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame where they will be put on display. He’s been offered several endorsement deals and his agent was approached about the prospect of a making a film based on his career.

Maybe Aaron Sorkin will write it.

Images Via, Getty Images