Sunday, January 31, 2016

Let's Hear it for John Scott, Human

In sports, people are a commodity.  Trade deadlines, waiver dismissals, and free agency paint the picture of each human as a puzzle piece and an asset that's disposable.  With every comment on social media about a player playing poorly and the sudden need to trade them, the humanity feels a little more lost.

John Scott did his part to remind us of that humanity.

Few players are Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.  Those players who are in-disposable, who you cling to as long as you can.  Many more are John Scott.  Players who pass back and forth from the minors to the majors, their life lived out of a suitcase with no real permanent home.

They live in hotels and apartments on month to month leases.  Their families spend little time with them.  Their passports are pock marked with the most out of the way places in the United States and Canada.  And they're looked down upon by those who are their bosses.

This was brought brightest to light by the plight of John Scott.  An enforcer, a goon, whose place in the game was dying a slow death.  A guy who yo-yo'd between the AHL and the NHL for the Phoenix Coyotes.  A guy whose All Star selection started as a gag, a protest to the quality of the game, one which the NHL has allowed to degrade to the point of boredom.

The enforcer role, especially in Scott's case, is no more than an impediment to the skill of the game.  He's easy to overlook and based on his on ice history, he's easier to hate.  Injuries, suspensions, cheap shots, more of each than goals make you wonder his place.

The NHL wondered the same and did every thing they could to force the hand of the fan, and Scott.  Burying the link to vote.  Not releasing voting updates.  Pressuring Scott to not attend.  They even went as far as to threaten him ("Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?"), in one of the more despicable acts of league history.

None of that work.  Scott was voted in, he vowed to attend.  Then came The Trade.

Immediately looked on as the work of the NHL, The Trade sent Scott to the Montreal Canadiens who promptly demoted him to the AHL.  The league immediately ruled he could not attend the All Star Game.

So transparent were the motivations of the league that outcry began immediately.  A move the higher ups were so sure would be pushed aside, they were met with shouts of anger from every possible avenue.  That anger wasn't that a league would send a piece away in a transaction.  It was that a league punished a person, a human, with a wife about to give birth to another country and a 15 hour car ride away because their system was flawed.

Eventually the league caved.  Scott was invited.  And for a weekend, Scott became a star.  He was met with unanimous applause at every mention of his name.  He participated in the hardest shot.  He took part in the break away challenge.  Each time, the fan applause was deafening and the player reaction was exceptionally positive.

With a big smile, Scott made the most of it.  He allowed himself to shine.  He allowed his voice to be heard and the whole time it was one of amazement.  His teammates, his co-workers, could not be happier to have him there.  They embraced him as one of their own, one of the best, someone who belonged there.

He was one of them.  He was beloved.  He was an All Star.

John Scott's place in the NHL may be dying out, and that's better for the game.  John Scott the player is the kind of thing the NHL needs to rid itself of if it truly intends to take the steps forward to become larger, stronger, better.

Conversely John Scott the person, beloved by teammates, is what the NHL needs to have more of if it truly intends to take the steps forward to become larger, stronger, better.

For the weekend, the NHL was forced to embraced John Scott.  To show some humanity.  To not treat a contract as a pawn.  And as a result, the game shined.  He'll be remembered forever as the MVP of the All Star Game, and his award will become the final hurrah of the goon.

Let's hear it for John Scott.  For one shining moment, a monument to humanity in a profession that rarely cares for such thing.  And his family was very, very proud.

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