I watched the NHL All Star Game.
I hated it.
Long before social media, these types of events were fraught with excitement. It felt organic to the viewer because, quite frankly, the polish didn’t need to be shiny, the veneer translucent, or the sheen remarkable. They were about our players, our teams, our moments rather than re-digested and fabricated situations. Timeless moments were captured before our eyes, and placed on our walls via posterized versions. With so many sports snippets calibrated for millennials the creation of so-called All Star moments happen daily, and at almost every hour. Gfycat, Vine, Periscope, and Twitter Video are incredible things, they really are. Yet we just aren’t “wowed” anymore, and that’s okay.
So I watched Little Pavelski and Little Burns score on a breakaway. I giggled at the Chewbacca bit. I continued to the love speedy Larkin. I thought the 3-on-3 format was amusing. But it all felt like a generic product. One seen often and quickly dismissed. In terms of the game and festivities – I hated it.
But there was John Scott.
It is rare that one human being can elevate something. There was his family nearby cheering him on. His goofy smile more predominant than the number on his sweater. Content to publicly jab the league while being simultaneously grateful. Dissing Jeremy Roenick rinkside then shaking hands with Gary Bettman. I get it, this was a big deal for him. There’s no denying this fact. But more than anything, and perhaps selfishly so, this was a big deal for the fans.
John Scott became a man of the people. Voted by the fans who secretly wanted to pull the sweater over the head of the league’s “proper” All Star voting procedures. But unlike that time when a bunch of Red Wings were voted in, this was a statement of true solidarity. The fans versus the man. As stupid as this sounds, it worked, and we suddenly forgot about the cheap shot, fist-heavy tendencies of Scott. Instead he was to be a quick one-two punch to the gut of an NHL that is distancing itself from these types of players, and maybe a bit from their foundational roots.
But John Scott was a special kind of All Star. Very few NHL players, including outliers like this one, could fill such an exciting void. Elevating the watch-ability to new heights. The NHL was slow to realize this, but ultimately correct to embrace it (they really had no choice). Scott is a personable every-man that really isn’t like every-man. Unpolished, but smart. Boisterous, but respectful. The culmination of Scott being voted into the ASG, and his existence as a hockey player were a beautiful thing of space and time. This guy, at this moment, on this stage produced those home grown fireworks we had been waiting so long to see. And did finally experience.
Don’t think for a moment that the NHL and fans won’t try to allow/vote another lowly player to the ASG. This is a league that has a terrible long term memory, and a faulty short term one. Like the Winter Classic, it will become tired and cliche. And I’m not sure there is another John Scott circa 2016 lying around out there. The moment, and the guy were that special. The grassroots campaign hit a sweet harmony that will be nearly impossible to duplicate.
I continue to hate just about every version of the All Star Game, not just in hockey. However, I love the potential for true greatness which doesn’t come from the Benn’s or the Seguin’s or the Hall’s or the Malkin’s, but from a genuine appreciation for fans and the sport of hockey. I’m not comfortable calling this a humanizing story because that title swings both ways. After all, and unfortunately, Patrick Kane is a humanizing story. Instead, I’ll call it a hero story not because Scott is a heroic figure by nature, but because the ideology of courage is a rare thing. For Scott to be the person he is might just be courageous in and of itself. Lost in a whirlwind of “we played a team game” and “it is an honor to be here” that typically drip from the mouths of our All Stars was John Scott. A goofy fella, but a deserving hero. One that we may never see on this stage again.