Heading into the NHL All-Star game, it seemed destined to be a PR disaster.
A strange, convoluted new format.
Big name players dropping out of the game at the last second.
And the John Scott elephant in the NHL’s room, the debate over whether he’d be allowed to play in the game he was voted into.
Luckily for the NHL, they showed (eventually) their support for John Scott and he partook in the All-Star weekend.
The new format really worked, to the point where the final game was a defensive minded affair, ending in a 1-0 victory for the down-trodden Pacific Division.
They found players to replace some of the big names, and to be honest, it was fine. It would have been nice to have Ovechkin and Toews there, but nobody was going to shine more than John Scott at the game.
And shine he did. The big man had two goals, he laid out Patrick Kane with a body check (a gentle one, but still), and he once again rode the fan wave of support to beat out the hand picked MVPs the NHL suggested for the game.
OMG they didn't list John Scott among MVP candidates. It's either Luongo, Hall or Gaudreau. #NHLAllStar
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) February 1, 2016
John Scott made the game fun, something it hasn’t been for many years. He looked like a kid in a candy store whose parents had just given him $20 to go nuts.
Many All-Star players enter the weekend with the fatigue of the season hanging over their heads. Their status as top line players often demanding more from them, leaving them little energy to enjoy the weekend for what it is. Not so for John Scott, and it was his infectious joy of loving his All-Star experience that seemed to spread everywhere he went.
In short, it was the best NHL All-Star game in recent memory, a game that finally touched on that nerve the NHL should always be looking for: the love of hockey.
Make no mistake about it, the John Scott situation was the perfect storm that will never be re-created by the NHL. It read more like a WWE produced story line than anything else. You half expected John Scott to deliver a stunner to Gary Bettman after getting the million dollar cheque.
The entire lead up to the Scott saga had felt like “Big Business” telling people what to think. It was “Big Business” telling Scott, someone people related to, that he wasn’t good enough. It made it feel like the NHL was saying “YOU aren’t good enough” to the fans by proxy. It rallied people to support John Scott not just for who he was, but what he represented.
So for John Scott to not only play in the All-Star game, but to score two goals, and to win the MVP? That was a victory for hockey, not just John Scott. That was a victory for people who grew up loving and playing the sport. It let people remember that at the end of the day, this is a game we love, not a business. A sentiment the NHL repeatedly stabs in the heart anytime a lockout occurs.
And that’s what also made it so effective. You almost kind of want to hope the NHL did it on purpose, because at least that would show awareness, versus the tone deaf appearance it looked to be. They’ll certainly take credit for the success now, and we will see how future All-Star games are handled, but at least for one day, the people’s voices were heard, and listened to.
It felt kind of good, you know?
Anyhow, here’s what went down at the rest of the All-Star game.
First Game: Metro Division vs Atlantic Division (Atlantic won 4-3)
- Dylan Larkin was the wonderkid with the rocket packs strapped to his skates, and he certainly looked impressive throughout the weekend. The one problem? He’s still 19, and sometimes when you run into a grown ass man like Malkin, you aren’t going to get very far.
- Seriously, it looks like Larkin ran into a car.
- Sportsnet had some camera issues throughout the day. They would sometimes inexplicably cut away from a breakaway to show a goalie being pulled or a plastic bag floating in the wind.
- Nonetheless, Jaromir Jagr showed he still has the killer moves as he scored on that nice beauty of a breakaway. We saw it in a replay mind you. Sportsnet missed the actual breakaway.
- Roberto Luongo played great at the All-Star game (CBC was quick to remind us that the Canucks once had both Schneider and Luongo. We are well aware CBC, we assure you), but he was beaten at least once pretty soundly.
- Don’t worry though, Luongo’s tweeting game was also in All-Star form throughout the day.
— Strombone (@strombone1) February 1, 2016
- The NHL All-Star game is all about trying to put on a show, so I get that some ideas were going to work and some weren’t. NHL guest coaches are a good idea in theory. When it doesn’t work is when Glen Healy and company have awkward small talk with them for about half a period, missing the action on the ice.
- That being said, the guest coaches gave us some good material, as seen above with Amy Grant, who promised back rubs if her players won the game for her.
- Grant then said Pekka Rinne was the greatest goalie of all time. Things got weird.
- Malkin was playing to win, and also showcasing how much time one sometimes gets in an All-Star game.
- Speaking of Sportsnet, here is one of the most bizarre cuts on the day. We live in a world where picture-in-picture has been a thing for decades, yet it can’t be used in moments like this? Is a visual of the goalie leaving the net that important? We’ll believe you if you say they a team pulled their goalie, nobody will accuse you of lying.
- A sign of the new All-Star times? Defence in a hockey game! Of course, Bergeron is always a defensive beast, but throughout most of the games, players were actually using their sticks for defence, instead of waving people through to have a clear go at the net. This made the game actually watchable and was a huge improvement over years past.
Second Game: Pacific Division vs Central Division (Pacific won 9-6)
In the surprise upset of the day, the Pacific Division, the laughing stock of the NHL, managed the upset win over the stacked Central Division.
- Part of why the Pacific won? It’s hard to stop John Scott. This was his first goal of the game and the crowd was almost as pumped as John Scott. Look at Scott having fun out there, what is he thinking??
- You want old school kick saves? Jonathan Quick has you covered!
- The best Non-Scott related part of the game? Tyler Seguin doing play by play of his own shift. The best part is where he swears and apologizes to Canada.
- This was one of the ideas that REALLY worked for the All-Star game, so kudos to Sportsnet for going with it. It helped highlight the players, which should always be a goal of the All-Star game, and it showed off their personality. The NHL is not very good at doing that at the best of times, so it was great to see Sportsnet do it here.
- Back to John Scott, that’s him taking out Patrick Kane and using that to give himself a breakaway. Had he scored there, statues might have been erected in his honor. It was a small moment, but one that made the game fun. You know people will be talking about it at every future All-Star game for a while.
- Alas, Kane ended up scoring a goal after Scott missed after Jamie Benn showcased why it’s unfair that some people have his skill level in hockey.
- John Scott made sure to send a message after the goal, though.
- Then he sent another message, with the puck instead of his fists. Yes, that’s John Scott fighting off Matt Duchene to score on a nice snipe. MVP! MVP! MVP!
- As always seems to be the case, Daniel Sedins strong night was lost in the shuffle. That was one of his two goals, and while it wasn’t the prettiest, it shows Daniel’s thug life ways as he isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas of the All-Star game to get him some greasy goals.
- Did Daniel plan on buying a new car with any money won on the weekend? Of course not.
- The save of the night was John Gibson’s groin allowing him to stop that puck on the two on one.
- Oh that’s just Daniel Sedin, murdering a post, to score a goal. No big deal.
This whole conversation is legendary. pic.twitter.com/Tr4T548qgk
— Doc Emrick (@DocInRealLife) January 31, 2016
- John Scott then knocked out Jeremy Roenick with his words instead of his fists.
Finals: Pacific Division vs Atlantic Division (Pacific wins 1-0)
There aren’t as many highlights for this last game because my HD capture device refused to work the rest of the game, but there weren’t many goals to record anyhow. It was a battle of the goalie, and once again Luongo showcasing why he’s one of the best.
- Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu! Also notice Daniel refusing to shoot and instead trying to force a pass out of it. True Sedins.
- Jonathan Quick took a break from being argued over by statisticians to make an “elite” save.
- LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! In another world, Roberto Luongo wins the MVP for the weekend, he played out of his mind.
Corey Perry scores
— Brought to you by CAPITALS© ONE™ HILL® (@CapitalsHill) February 1, 2016
- Not seen is Daniel Sedin making the pass that led to this goal. Daniel Sedin had himself a weekend.
Bishop gets interfered. No goal. pic.twitter.com/yCeElHBqjO
— Brought to you by CAPITALS© ONE™ HILL® (@CapitalsHill) February 1, 2016
- The Pacific almost had a two goal lead, but Amy Grant, taking a break from back rubs, was quick to challenge the call. The NHL agreed, and the goal was disallowed.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) February 1, 2016
Tell me this isn’t just the BEST. pic.twitter.com/LKwcNyAyIh
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 1, 2016
- You couldn’t have scripted a better story for John Scott today.
It isn’t hyperbole to suggest this was the best All-Star game seen in many years. The weekend, for all the concerns leading up to it, really came together quite nicely. The hockey, while it will never equal actual NHL action, was much closer to the actual product than years past. There was something fun about watching All-Stars having to earn their open ice a bit more than just having opposing players just stare as they fly past them. It makes the goals feel more satisfying knowing there was some actual push-back on them.
I know I said in the intro that the NHL will never be able to replicate what went down today, but I do hope they try and honor it for future games. I think every year the teams should submit one player to be on the ballot as the “Unsung All-Star”. Whether it’s a veteran back up goalie, or a guy who never complains about his fourth line duty, they should celebrate the guys who show up to work and do everything they can to make it and stay in the NHL.
As John Scott said in his moving piece in the Players Tribune , the fact he’s made it to the NHL counts for something. He’s worked his ass off to get there, and there should be no shame in celebrating players of that caliber. The idea that the All-Star game is some sacred ground that a player like him shouldn’t have been allowed to is ridiculous. Celebrate the All-Stars, sure, but don’t forget the other players who help get them there. Celebrate the love of hockey that binds us all together.