NEW YORK — John Scott’s improbable road to the NHL all-star game took another twist Tuesday, with the league confirming he will keep his elected role as Pacific Division captain despite a trade and a demotion.
The journeyman tough guy was chosen to lead the Pacific team at the showcase tournament by a fan vote, but last week he was traded out of the division as part of a deal between Arizona and Montreal. The Canadiens promptly assigned him to the American Hockey League’s St. John’s IceCaps, making his eligibility for the all-star festivities on Jan. 30-31 in Nashville unclear.
Though the NHL did not publicly comment on the issue until Tuesday, there was some debate as to whether the league would allow a lumbering, six-foot-eight fighter with 11 career points to play in a 3-on-3 tournament designed to showcase speed and skill.
Fans angry about the prospect of Scott not being allowed to play in the game took to social media over the weekend, creating a FreeJohnScott hashtag.
The NHL says Scott’s move to a different division and his minor league assignment “created a unique circumstance that required review.”
Scott told the Arizona Republic when voting began that he didn’t want to be voted into the all-star game.
“It would be cool, but I definitely don’t deserve it at this point,” he said. “You never know. There’s still some time left. I could turn it on.”
But later he warmed to the idea, printing T-shirts he planned to give to Pacific Division teammates that read: “Thanks for believing in me. Love always, The Captain.” Those shirts were sold online for charity after the trade.
Now back in the all-star plans, Scott says he’s “looking forward to enjoying a fun and unique experience.”
The other all-star captains are Florida’s Jaromir Jagr (Atlantic), Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (Metropolitan) and Chicago’s Patrick Kane (Central).
The NHL will likely change the way fan voting for the game works going forward, as this isn’t the first attempt to use the system to turn a journeyman into an all-star.
A campaign to elect minor-leaguer Rory Fitzpatrick created a buzz in 2007, while middling Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons was voted in last year.