Dear John

I wasn’t prepared to watch the entire NHL All Star Game, only because 3 on 3 seemed like such a foolish idea.  Who came up with the idea to throw the stars of all 32 teams on the ice 6 at a time?  That’s how we make it more exciting?  That’s not how I get excited.

First of all, I’m not a fan of the shootout wins and losses.  I’m ok with a game ending in a tie.  I’m one of those soccer guys who believes that a game can end in a tie and still be exciting.  Why does a game have to end with a winner?  Why?  Cause that’s the American way and the NHL is now marketed toward an American fanbase.  No longer is the NHL geared toward where the game started.  Now it looks to expand in the money areas in the United States.  At the start of the All Star Game, no Canadian team was going to make the playoffs.

Second, yes sure there would be less players on the ice creating more space for playmakers but it also meant that there would be more reason to play defense.  Think about it.  When these guys play in the regular season they are trying not to lose.  Plus goal scoring is down and there’s no reason to think that 3 on 3 in an NHL ASG would solve that.

What would solve that problem would end up being a human interest story.  That’s exactly what the All Star Game is supposed to be about.  It’s supposed to be about the players.  It’s supposed to be about seeing the players you want to see.

Meanwhile, Ovi and Toews pull out.  The two players who are a. the most exciting goal scorer and b. the best playoff player.  Gee, thanks I can’t wait.  I realize that the city hosting the game can fill rosters, but many times it gets ridiculous.  This year, Roman Josi shouldn’t have made it to the ASG.  But I get it.  Make the host city happy.

What made the ASG exciting was the John Scott story.  A lifelong tough guy, Scott has made his living doing the job that many others couldn’t.  Unfortunately he’s taken crap from people ranging from Jeremy Roenick to Mike Milbury for being voted into the NHL ASG.  But Scott is no dummy.  A graduate of Michigan Tech with an engineering degree, Scott does the dirty work so that the finesse players can make goals.  What started as a joke ended with Scott talking about the experience on Derek Jeter’s Player’s Tribune.

Scott didn’t disappoint.  It was incredible to see him score two goals and be celebrated by his teammates as his team won the 3 on 3 competition.  Named as MVP by the fans, Scott was lifted off the ice by his team after the final whistle.  It was an amazing experience for Scott, whose playing career has now taken him to St. John’s Newfoundland.  Until now, not many knew the path Scott had taken to get to the NHL or what he had done once he had gotten to the League.  In fact, many people view players like Scott as just “goons” or enforcers who have no talent, but they are much more than that.

Scott is like those before him, Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak, Bob Probert and Rick Rypien who did the job but never got the credit.  He’s an example of what it takes for the 700 players to be in the NHL, how much talent they must have to be in the league no matter whether it’s a top line guy or the forth line winger.  Even one plays a role and a winning team is full of players accepting their positions within the organization.

Unfortunately the position Scott plays also has a history of players dying early.  Boogaard, Belak and Rypien are examples of those taken way too early.  Scott seems to understand that hockey is just a game, just a way of life.  Unfortunately these guys had a problem that wasn’t seen or wasn’t addressed by doctors.  I’m sorry for the losses that the families and friends of these young men.  The depression that they suffered was missed by someone somewhere.  I’m not blaming anyone.  It’s easy to miss these things.  Maybe they never even talked about it.  Maybe they never even gave any indication that there was a problem.  But once they did, maybe it was too late.

It’s a terrible tragedy and while we celebrate John Scott we should never forget the losses that we have suffered from depression in hockey.  It’s real and it’s serious.  Don’t ever walk away, let someone talk, because it could be what saves someone’s life.  It could be the difference between a Derek Boogaard and a John Scott.

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