Nashville, TN. Birthplace of Young Buck and home of the Brent Burns’ new favorite way of preparing a bird, Hot Chicken. It’s a place where young naive musicians with stars in their eyes go and try to make it big in spite of the processed, polished and expertly tailored baroque sound that populates the industry. A place where the little girl/guy gets chewed up and spit out in the gears of Big Business.
Well, my friends, not yesterday. No, sir. Yesterday, the little guy got to look the big guys in the eye and say, “Fuck you.” Not exactly that, but you get the picture. There’s a lot being said about the events that transpired yesterday and the many days before that lead to John Scott’s appearance in the All Star. Most of them are all of the fluffy feel good variety largely treating Scott as a Rudy figure that overcame obstacles to play with the greats, but I will hazard a guess and say that ALL of them admonish the actions of the NHL.They have to. There is nothing that the NHL did right in this entire situation. Even the flood of social media posts from the official NHL pages calling John Scott an All Star and an MVP seemed about as genuine and as forced as my next Hot Chicken reference. However, in the end, people will come away from this and say, “Gee, what a really nice moment for Scott and his family. I hope they try the Hot Chicken,” and I really hope they do try that chicken, but the entire incident left an unpleasant yet, not entirely unfamiliar taste in my mouth.
The bungling of the All Star game is something the NHL is all too familiar with because the NHL is a Big Business. I’ve seen reports indicating that the NHL fought John Scott’s entry into the roster as an act of preserving the sanctity of the game, or as an effort to sweep Hockey’s dirty little secret (shhh) under the rug. While I still think that these factors were at play, the biggest and most obvious motivation to try and erase John Scott from the annuls of All Star history was the All mighty ‘ollar. Nothing new there. If you were to look at the roster and see John Scott’s name, do you think, “Holy fuck, I better book a flight to Nashville this minute” Probably not. In fact, you’re probably wondering what the hell Sidney Crosby was doing in Austin the weekend of the game. All the league saw was a wasted opportunity in maximizing the profit potential of an event created to fill the pockets of the owners. So in an effort to increase profitability, the league decided they had to do something. Hell, big businesses ship off employees and their families clear across the country everyday for their own sinister benefit and no one bats an eye, so why did we feel that twinge of pain when the news came down of Scott’s trade? It’s simple; we kinda feel responsible. Don’t you just a little bit? We forgot that by voting in John Scott, whether as a joke or not, the league would bristle in a way that would result in stupid decisions. Decisions not based on the game’s purity, but rather the total sale of John Scott jerseys and the cache of the name John Scott means about as much to the league as actually putting a hockey team in Las Vegas or Quebec after the cities and investors forked over their money. We glossed over the fact that the NHL is run by people who’s job it is to not keep the current fan base, but to attract the new and uninitiated. The league could give a fuck about the people who already spent their money. While we would love to think that the NHL doesn’t have NFL, NBA, or MLB aspirations, they do.Which leads me to my final point and is the thing that does set the NHL apart from other leagues: desperation. The NHL is the fastest game on earth but it is also thirstiest. We all know that those who are thirsty, will do anything to quench it. So, again, did we think about how the league might react when we voted in a jouneyman enforcer to the all star game. Probably not, but, as David put it, the result was something made for ESPN’s 30 for 30. A truly great sports moment. Does this change how thirsty the league is? Hell nah. So, as John Scott makes his way to New Foundland, enjoy this moment friends, cause we are in for some more thirsty moments from our beloved league. While this story has a happy(ish) ending, I have a feeling the next time something gets in the way of the NHL’s marketability, it might not be so pretty.