By Rob Ficiur
This week NHL all-star John Scott was traded from Phoenix to Montreal and then demoted to the Canadiens’ minor league American Hockey League. According to NHL rules if a player has been assigned to the minors he is not eligible to play in the All-star game. The eight-year veteran, with 285 games played, appears to have lost his one and only chance to be in an all-star game.
Before non-fans riot at the apparent injustice a few background facts will put John Scott’s all-star credentials in perspective. This season he has appeared in 11 games (most all stars have been in about 40 games); Scott has one assist and twenty five penalty minutes. Last year in 38 games he tripled his career goal total by scoring three. So how does a four-line fighter become an all-star non fans may ask. Hockey fans don’t have to ask, they already know this game. Every year or two fans choose to champion an obscure player, like Scott, and vote him in as an All-star. In 2007 Vancouver’s Rory Fitzpatrick (58 games played and one goal) was nearly elected by fans. Last season Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons was elected in the same way. At least last year the Sabres forward ended up with a respectable fifteen goals and fifteen assists.
Once the NHL put voting in the hands of the fans there is the potential to have “trouble makers” assault the honor of the voting process. But before we go too hard on the fans, look at what some players have done in the past. Back in 2009 two players of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, Nicholas Linstrom and Pavel Datsyuk withdrew from the All Star game festivities because of injuries. They were not injured enough to miss time with their team. They just wanted a weekend away from the game. Every year there seems to be a couple of stars who chose not to be stars for that weekend. This all-star snub by players may be one reason why write in votes have become a popular trend.
In the NBA Kobe Bryant is leading the league in all-star voting during the worse season of his career. However, since Kobe announced that this will be his last year in the league one can see that he is getting the votes because of his prolific career not for this season. While technically all-star games are supposed to be about the best players this year, everyone understands that exceptions like Bryant’s will happen.
One way to eliminate “wrong voting” is to leave the voting to the professional hockey writers. Since they are unbiased professionals it could be argued that their votes will more accurately enshrine the worthy rightful candidates to the all-star events.
Wrong! History tells us that the professional hockey writers are sometimes as clueless as the fans. For the 2012-2013 season the professional hockey writers voted Alexander Ovechkin as the top right winger in the league. They also voted him the second best left winger in the league. The numbers really don’t add up. There are only six players on the ice at one time, no matter how talented the Great Eight (Ovechkin) was that year he could not play right wing and left wing at the same time. How can someone be both a right and left winger at once? If the professional hockey writers can goof up on a simple matter of selecting 12 league wide all-stars, then higher numbers may cause problems for them too.
Perhaps the NHL Public Relations gurus have outfoxed all the fans in this John Scott All Star controversy. In the last ten years all-star games in most sports have become nonevents to most fans. Hockey all-star games are especially singled out because in the hard hitting game they are no hits in the all-star non-classics. This year the John Scott story has engaged fans in all-star voting and analysis long before those elected and selected to the game do their traditional “Sorry I can’t come” speech. Even though more fans and media types are talking about the all-star game, it seems unlikely that more will watch the actual event.
Wrong! While some believe that all press coverage is good for the league, I am disagree. The NHL looks foolish for having someone with one goal selected as an all-star. The fans made a mockery of the voting and the NHL went along with that mockey. That does not sound like good public relations to me.
I have a simple solution to all these wrong voting by fans and sportswriters. The solution is to let me do it all. Since I am unbiased, un-opinionated and am never wrong my selections would be exactly what they should be. If you don’t agree with my voting you can ask me and I will assure you that my voting was (and will be) exactly how things should be.