The story that most emphatically broke past the hockey world last year was the unlikely ascent of John Scott from anonymous enforcer on the fringes of the NHL to MVP of the NHL All-Star Game. Fans decided to mobilize and elect a nobody as an all-star captain, and he scored a pair of goals in the game despite not being an active NHL player at the time. It was a feel-good tale with a happy ending for Scott and the fans, so naturally, the NHL tried to keep Scott from the game. This year, the league will enact new All-Star Game rules to prevent another John Scott situation.
The new restrictions on fan voting would have kept Scott out if they were in place last season:
Players who are injured or in the minors won’t be on the active ballot until they’re back in the NHL. If someone is voted captain and is hurt or in the AHL, the player with the second-most votes gets in.
I understand the NHL’s urge to more closely sync up the letter of fan voting with the spirit (vote for the best, most-deserving players), but having a second-division player in an all-star weekend’s marquee event wasn’t a dilution of the game’s quality or a negative reflection on the NHL. It was the best story of the season (unless you’re partial to the man who discovered hockey, which I completely understand) and a bunch of NHL teams even got in on the fun.
Even if fans’ options are now restricted, there’s probably still a way around this. There are plenty of relatively inconsequential players who will still be eligible, and I hope someone else gets a chance to be John Scott.