NASHVILLE – John Scott sat on his teammates shoulders while fans chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P!” and the NHL finally got out of the way.
The people spoke up for Scott once again Sunday night, making the career journeyman enforcer an All-Star MVP as a write-in candidate after voting him into the new 3-on-3 All-Star tournament as captain of the Pacific Division.
Scott scored twice during the tournament, bringing cheers from fans and smiles from teammates who relished every moment along with the gentle giant and his goofy grin. Scott captained the Pacific to a 1-0 win in the championship.
“It’s just another one on the list of stuff that I cannot believe is happening,” Scott said of being picked as MVP. “I never in a million years would have believed I was at an All-Star Game, the fans would be behind me like that and score two goals in a game. You can’t put it into words. You can’t write this stuff. It’s unbelievable.”
Now Scott’s helmet is headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and his name was trending on Twitter in the United States after a night when he wasn’t listed among the three MVP candidates for a social media vote late in the final game.
The NHL did not release details, but fans took it upon themselves to select him once again, in an overwhelming vote for the 6-foot-8 forward with five goals in 285 career games.
“I’m sure he won over a lot of people, and got even more fans,” Chicago forward Patrick Kane said of Scott.
Fans at Bridgestone Arena booed the MVP options when announced and yelled for Scott, who wrote last week that someone with the NHL tried to talk him out of coming. He seemed a bit stunned as he soaked everything in, from teammates lifting him on their shoulders while fans chanted “MVP!” before Scott was announced as the winner and presented with a Honda Pilot Touring SUV. He also posed with teammates behind their $1 million check.
Scott only got nervous when Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, a former teammate and friend, caught him off guard and helped hoist the reluctant fighter into the air.
“I’m not a very light guy, almost 275 pounds, soaking wet about 300 pounds,” Scott said. “Yeah, nerve wracking, especially (since) Burnzie is such a spaz. Again, just another moment on this weekend I just cannot believe. You really can’t put into words.”
The NHL changed the format after last year’s All-Star Game featured 92 shots and a combined 29 goals for the biggest offensive display in the showcase’s 60-year history. This time, these All-Stars combined for 116 shots and 23 goals.
This event looked much more like the hockey the league plays the rest of the season. Their inspiration was the 3-on-3 overtime approach for a tournament pitting the four divisions against each other in 20-minute games. The winners of the first two games advanced to a third-period championship.
“I broke a better sweat than last year for sure,” Philadelphia Flyer and Metropolitan Division forward Claude Giroux said.
Goalies split the work with a 10-minute portion each and actually got the chance to stop shots rather than be targets in the net. Florida’s Roberto Luongo and Jonathan Quick of the Kings each made great saves to keep the first 10 minutes of the championship game scoreless, and Quick stopped Jagr in the final seconds before intermission.
Scott, the personable enforcer toiling for now in the minor leagues, stole the show.
A fan campaign made Scott captain of the Pacific Division before the Arizona Coyotes traded him Jan. 15 to Montreal, which assigned him to the AHL. He will return to the AHL to Newfoundland in Canada with lots of prizes after fans chose Scott over the finalists offered by the league’s hockey operations Luongo, Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau or Edmonton forward Taylor Hall.
Scott’s two goals tied Hall, Daniel Sedin of Vancouver and Nashville forward James Neal for the most goals at this event. Scott’s wife, Danielle, is pregnant with twins due within the next two weeks, and they will be heading to Michigan during the American Hockey League’s All-Star break.
She said this has been overwhelming.
“I jumped up when he scored his second goal, holding my two kids, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God. I better stop and relax,'” she said. “We’d like to have the babies at home.”
Anaheim forward Corey Perry scored the lone goal in the championship at 13:38.
Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang blocked a shot, and Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban sprawled out on the ice to help protect a one-goal lead in the final seconds of the Atlantic Division’s 4-3 win over the Metropolitan. Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop stopped a couple shots by Letang and his Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin inside the final minute to preserve the win.
Goalies also got into the offensive action, taking advantage of more room on the ice. Corey Schneider of New Jersey, Nashville’s own Pekka Rinne, Bishop and Anaheim’s John Gibson all had assists.
Florida forward Jaromir Jagr, captain of the Atlantic Division, skated in his 10th All-Star Game and helped the Atlantic beat the Metropolitan 4-3. Scott’s Pacific beat the powerful Central 9-6 to advance.