For one year, John Scott saved the NHL All-Star Game
The 2016 NHL All-Star game was a success, and the league has John Scott to thank for it.
Maybe the key ingredient for a great All-Star game isn't about having the best players or trying a new format for the fourth time in 20 years.
Maybe the key ingredient is simply having the right players at the game. Players that can make everything fun, not take things too seriously, and find a way to engage with fans and bring the game closer to them.
Somebody like ... John Scott.
You don't have to like him as a player. You don't have to like some of the things he has done on the ice. You don't even have to like his role or the way he was voted into the game.
But he was voted in.
He received more votes than any other player in the NHL for this year's game. Because of that, he absolutely deserved to be there and deserved the opportunity to participate in every event over the All-Star weekend. This is what happens when you turn the game and selection process over to a fan vote. You give them what they want and don't find a reason to back out when you don't like the results like the NHL cowardly tried to do.
Luckily for the NHL, Scott was in Nashville for the NHL's 61st All-Star game.
The NHL is lucky because for one year John Scott -- JOHN SCOTT! -- was able to do something that nobody else has been able to do in years. Maybe even decades.
He made the All-Star game fun. He brought life to a game that was so bad a year ago in Columbus that people were actually suggesting that the league just flat out stop holding it because nobody cared anymore.
The on-ice results are irrelevant when it comes to this game (Scott's Pacific Division team won the tournament, and yes, Scott was the MVP).
This entire weekend is supposed to be about entertainment, about getting a chance to see a more personal side of the players that you never get to see during the grind of an 82-game regular season and two-month postseason. It's about fans getting a chance to see their favorite players up close and see them as something more than just great hockey players.
Perhaps it was the novelty of having the closest thing the NHL has to a "regular guy" in the game. Or maybe it was all of the controversy that followed this saga in the weeks leading up to the game and the way Scott just stole the show from the beginning.
But he had a Midas touch in Nashville where everything he was a part of immediately turned to gold.
Just look at everything that took place over the past 48 hours involving Scott.
1. His reaction to Patrick Kane getting booed set the stage for him being a fan favorite
Nobody in Nashville likes Patrick Kane or anything even remotely related to the Chicago Blackhawks, and pretty much every time his name was mentioned and every time he touched the puck he was loudly booed. And that included the initial player introductions on Saturday at the skills competition.
This was a perfect start to the weekend, and it only set the stage for Scott being the most popular player at the entire event. Not only did he get multiple standing ovations and some of the loudest cheers, his shirt at the NHL team store sold out before the weekend even started.
John Scott's inclusion in the All-Star Game is all worth it now pic.twitter.com/gzTLsAD6V0— January Jonezo (@davelozo) January 31, 2016
2. He outperformed two of the NHL's best players in his skills competition event
Scott participated in the hardest shot competition on Saturday night and even though he didn't reach the 103 mph shot he was hoping for going into the weekend, he still shot a puck harder than both Aaron Ekblad and Tyler Seguin. That is no small accomplishment, and it serves as a nice reminder that nobody at this level is truly "bad."
I mean, he busted out a spin-o-rama in the breakaway relay and nearly scored.
John Scott goes for the spinorama pic.twitter.com/hdut8fUBSS— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) January 31, 2016
3. Nobody has ever had more fun scoring a goal during an All-Star game
In a game where players usually look completely disinterested, Scott not only cared, he was having an absolute blast and enjoyed his first All-Star goal perhaps more than any other player has ever enjoyed an All-Star goal.
And then he scored again.
4. His hit and "fight" sequence with Patrick Kane was perhaps better than his goals
Only two players have actually registered a "hit" in an NHL All-Star game since 2003. Scott Hartnell in 2012, and Scott on Sunday when he flattened Kane in the neutral zone.
That ultimately led to Scott getting a breakaway chance at one end of the ice, and then Kane himself scoring at the other end.
After that happened, the two staged a playful fight.
5. He proved his doubters wrong, and even had a chance to fire back at one
This whole saga had its fair share of critics from the very beginning, with more than one member of the media questioning Scott's character (while one member of the NHL front office apparently tried to use his kids to guilt him out of playing). One of the loudest critics was former NHL All-Star Jeremy Roenick, who ended up having to interview Scott during the game.
It was amazing.
This whole conversation is legendary. pic.twitter.com/Tr4T548qgk— Doc Emrick (@DocInRealLife) January 31, 2016
6. This was a one time thing
For as great as this weekend was for Scott, and for as lucky as the NHL was (and lucky is the right word here given the way they almost wasted this opportunity), this was a one-time thing for the league.
This can not -- and will not -- be duplicated.
From the way the fan vote took over the process, to the drama over whether Scott would be able to play or should play, to Scott himself being the absolute perfect person to handle it and turn into a success, there is no way this can be done again without feeling forced or fake.
That is going to be the problem the NHL faces next season. The All-Star game had grown stale over the past two decades, which is why the league had to keep re-inventing the whole thing. This year they caught lightning in a bottle, and the struggle is going to be finding a different way to do it again next year in Los Angeles.
Perhaps the 3-on-3 tournament format is a winner and can keep things fresh for a while, but you're never going to have an All-Star weekend like the league had in Nashville again, because you're never going to get another year where John Scott comes in and absolutely dominates the weekend.
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