Teresa M. Walker
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — John Scott sat back in his chair and took a cellphone photo of all the reporters crowded around him once the questions finally ended.
It was a big moment for a big man, and it almost didn’t happen. So the journeyman enforcer who admits he’s an odd fit for an NHL All-Star game is soaking up every precious moment before heading back to Newfoundland, where he is toiling in the minors.
“It’s definitely strange,” Scott said Friday at one of the more unusual media days for the NHL’s showcase event. “You go in the locker room everyone’s got the NHL logo on their helmet. They threw the NHL logo on mine. It’s definitely always like, ‘You’re not in the NHL anymore.’ So it’s neat, though like I’m not used to this and all this scrum and stuff. I’m going to enjoy it while I’m here and go back to the real world.”
He is going to enjoy it with a blessing from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, too. The two had a talk Thursday night.
“And he’s more than welcome to be here,” Bettman told The Associated Press. “We’re happy he’s here. The fans spoke, and we’re happy to reflect their will.”
Scott said he was glad to hear that from Bettman because there was a time he really wasn’t sure the league felt that way. He wrote in The Players Tribune this week that someone from the league called him to suggest he back out of the game, an idea he rejected much to the delight of his fellow All-Stars.
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for Scott. He was traded Jan. 15 to Montreal, which promptly ordered him to its AHL affiliate in Canada’s version of the Far East. The league also had to decide what to do with him, since no one had really expected a 6-foot-8 bruiser with just five goals over 285 games in eight seasons to make an All-Star roster.
Scott didn’t just make the roster: Fans flocked online and voted him captain of the Pacific Division, taking advantage of the NHL’s willingness to give them the ability to turn at least one position into a popularity contest. The same thing happened a year ago as Latvian fans helped send Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons to the All-Star game.
Of course, Girgensons isn’t a tough guy like Scott, who may very well look a bit out of place when the league shows off its frantic 3-on-3 format during Sunday’s game.
Scott expects the NHL to change the fan vote for the All-Star Game to keep someone like himself from ever being picked again.
“They should do something if they don’t want this to happen again,” Scott said. “I think it’s a good thing for the game. It’s gotten a lot of publicity. It’s gotten a lot of people excited to watch the game, so you never know. It could be a good thing.”
All-Star merchandise with Scott’s name and number has been a hot item, so popular that Scott said he couldn’t find any of his own jerseys.
Scott said his former Arizona teammates supported him accepting his All-Star spot. Florida star Jaromir Jagr said the pressure from the league wasn’t fair to Scott, who has played for six teams over the years and never averaged more than 10 minutes in ice time during an NHL season.
“He didn’t do anything wrong,” Jagr said. “He’s a great guy. I think the change will change something next year, but he shouldn’t go through that. It was kind of cool when he said, ‘No, I’m coming.’ I like that. I think he’s going to be the most popular player on the ice. … I just hope he doesn’t slash anybody.”
Dallas forward Jamie Benn said the solution is simple.
“If they don’t want certain players here, they shouldn’t let the fans vote,” Benn said.
But first things first.
Scott worked with Chicago forward Patrick Kane, the NHL’s top scorer, to set the lineups for Saturday’s skills competition. Scott himself will take part in the shootout and hardest shot events.
“I wanted to stack the deck and put my eggs in as many baskets as I could and win those prizes,” Scott joked.
The 33-year-old Scott has two daughters, and his wife is expecting twins within the next couple weeks. In his essay, he wrote that someone with the NHL asked him: “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”
That incident only strengthened his resolve to play Sunday. Scott was asked if anyone with the league followed up with him about that comment about his children not being proud, and he said no. He doesn’t expect anyone to come forward, either.
For now, he’s looking forward to fan support in his big weekend with the superstars.
“It’s obviously an anomaly,” Scott said. “I’m not the typical All-Star, and it’s probably not going to happen again. It’s kind of one of those things where it might be the last time, and I hope they have fun with it and kind of get behind me a little bit.”
AP Hockey Writer Larry Lage and AP freelance writer Jim Diamond contributed to this report.