Of all the great players who competed in the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, John Scott was named the most valuable. This would have been quite an honor for any player, but especially for one who was not even supposed to be there.
The Edmonton, Alberta-born defenseman/winger was the subject of a campaign to get someone on the all-star roster who would not normally be there. League administrators did not like the idea and attempted to prevent Scott from participating. However, the desire of fans — and Scott’s own solid play — won out.
While Scott’s All-Star MVP status came as a surprise, the next four years would bring another event many fans would not expect. At 6 feet, 8 inches tall and 260 pounds, Scott had become known as one of the roughest guys in pro hockey. Fights were not uncommon in his decade-long pro career that included stints with the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens.
Over the years, fighting lost its appeal to the 37-year-old Scott, who, at the same time, was being drawn closer to the Catholic Church. The father of six — five born and one due this summer — was baptized in 2017 and now attends the traditional Latin Mass at Holy Rosary Church in the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan.
Scott summarized his extraordinary story — which also includes a podcast, book and preparation for filming a movie — at a time that, under normal circumstances, would have seen the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs underway.
Since you’re so tall, I assume you played basketball as well as hockey.
Well, people assume that, but it’s not really the case. I did play basketball in grade 5 but hated it, so I kept on playing hockey — which is almost an automatic in Canada — along with baseball, volleyball and lacrosse. Even without a stick and a puck, I just enjoyed being on the ice. I would skate for miles and miles and just felt very much in the right place.
Add the stick, puck, pads and teammates to the mix, and that’s how I spent almost 30 years of my life. I got to play hockey with the same group of kids from about age 6 to 16. That gave me the opportunity, not only to learn a sport, but to learn how to interact with others productively. It wasn’t just a physical skills thing, but a social skills thing, so I learned a lot from hockey.
I’m grateful my parents kept me in the sport, despite the expenses. All the equipment and travel really added up over the years, so when I got a scholarship to Michigan Tech, we were able to say it was worth it financially.
How did the All-Star Game appearance come about?
Some bloggers and podcasters in Canada got the idea in the 2015-16 season that it would be fun to vote someone into the All-Star Game who would not normally be there. I ended up being the man they wanted for that, so lots of fans voted for me.
However, the league did not want me to be at the game, not only because I had a penchant for punching, but because they thought I would be too slow for the new three-on-three format they had come up with. I was even traded in the hope that the transition from one team to another would lessen the number of votes I got. Despite the league’s efforts, I was voted in, named the Pacific Division’s captain, played well, and was even named the MVP.
It was a surreal thing, and I ended up telling the story in my autobiography, A Guy Like Me: Fighting to Make the Cut. A movie will be made about the All-Star Game, too. Mitch Albom wrote the script, the casting is being done, and we are hoping to film this year.
Since your career included not only being tough but actual fights, how do you reconcile that with Catholicism?
I’ve been asked that a lot, and I’m not sure I have the right answer to the question, but here are some thoughts: I asked a priest about it, and he said that fighting is not inherently wrong. It shouldn’t be done as the first resort, but it can be done to defend oneself, rather than to simply inflict harm. Even though I have been in positions to really hurt opponents, I didn’t injure them on purpose.
Fighting in order to injure is not okay, and fighting for the sake of fighting is not okay, either. However, if it’s done in the context of achieving something in a rough sport, it’s not automatically wrong.
Fighting was a routine part of my career, and it was literally part of my job description. I was paid to protect my teammates, but I enjoyed not having to do it at the All-Star Game. Now that I’m retired from the sport, have five daughters, and am a practicing Catholic, I have even more appreciation for peacefully proceeding without punches.
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