What is the hockey world pretending to be outraged about now?
Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. We’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about this week and try to figure out if it’s justified.
The issue: After a campaign by fans, John Scott was elected Pacific Division captain for this year’s all-star game.
The outrage: Let’s all make a big show about rolling our eyes over anyone who suggests this isn’t utterly hilarious. After all, the all-star game has no integrity to begin with, and anyone who doesn’t want to see Scott play is just a cranky old fusspot who hates fun and loves hot takes.
Is it justified: Partially. True, the all-star game is a joke, and has been for years. The players don’t try, the game doesn’t look anything like real hockey, the scores are ridiculous and nobody cares. It’s quite possible that nobody has beat that drum more often than I have over the years, so sure, no argument there.
And so it should follow that if you’re going to open fan voting to anyone, the fans should be able to pick whoever they want. Stuff the ballot box for the home team, give the sentimental favorite one last trip, pick the guy with the funniest twitter campaign, you name it. It’s all in good fun, so fill your boots.
But here’s the thing with John Scott: The whole campaign wasn’t all in good fun. This wasn’t a case of fans rising up to elect a popular grinder, a sort-of Brad Marsh selection for the new generation. Scott seems like a nice enough guy, if you can ignore the occasional incident like this, but even in a league where fans typically idolize tough guys, he's never been especially popular outside of whatever market he was playing in. This wasn't about doing something nice for John Scott.
No, this was about fans thinking it would be hilarious to pick the absolute worst player they could think of, and Scott happened to be that guy. Go back and read the Reddit threads and Twitter exchanges; they aren't filled with admiration for Scott's lunch pail ethos, they're about how funny it would be to watch him try to keep up with real players, especially with the new 3-on-3 format. Like your parents always told you, there's a big difference between laughing with someone and laughing at them. That's not to say it was necessarily mean-spirited – this always seemed to be more about embarrassing the NHL than embarrassing Scott. But the end result was the same: find the consensus choice for the league's worst player, and vote them in.
And that's important to remember, because we're already retconning the whole thing into a "We love John Scott" party that it never was. That's a far nicer story now that the votes are in and we're stuck with the result, and you can bet the league will push it hard. Over the next few weeks, there's going to be a concentrated effort to transform this whole debacle into a feel-good story about fans rising up behind an unlikely underdog. But that doesn't mean we have to go along with it.
And it doesn't mean that Scott has to either, although that's his choice. I would have liked to have seen him bow out of the whole thing early on, but that's me. I'm sure he's not under any illusions here, and if he still says he wants to go and share a fun experience with his family then it's hard to blame him. He didn't ask for any of this, so go ahead and make the best of it.
But it's not a feel-good story. It's a case of voting the unpopular kid as prom king so that everyone else can point and laugh, even if most of that pointing is aimed at the league that didn't bother to fix its all-star game until it was too late. Call the whole thing hilarious if you want, but at least be honest about where it came from.