NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “That’s it?” John Scott asked after the questions for him appeared to peter out Friday. “All right. Don’t move.”
With that, the Accidental All-Star took a smartphone picture of the throng of reporters surrounding him, to document for eternity the strange turn of events in his life and career.
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Mostly, he seemed to be having a good time with it, a stance the league itself also has embraced, perhaps belatedly, after fan voting landed a lumbering player mostly known for his fighting skills among the league’s elite talent at NHL All-Star Weekend.
“When this whole thing started, obviously I got negative and positive feedback,” Scott said. “So it is nice to finally have everyone put that aside and realize, you know, it’s going to happen, let’s have fun with it, make the best of it and just have a good time.”
That includes commissioner Gary Bettman, who spoke Thursday with Scott and sought to assure him the NHL was OK with him being here.
“I think he was worried about me not feeling welcome here and me just kind of being uncomfortable in this whole situation,” Scott said. “He just said, ‘We’re happy you’re here. We wanted you to be here and just go and have fun and our support is behind you.’
“It was nice to hear that coming from him. There was a time when I was not really sure how he felt, but he kind of put those thoughts at rest.”
Scott, 33, initially garnered fan support in online voting mostly as a joke, partly to see how the 6-8, 260-pounder would fare in the 3-on-3 tournament that will replace the traditional All-Star Game. (Scott has five goals in 285 NHL games over eight seasons, including six games as a Ranger in 2011-12.)
At first he was embarrassed and reluctant to go along but eventually decided to do so. When he then was traded from the Coyotes to the Canadiens, then sent to the minor league St. John’s, Newfoundland, IceCaps — with his wife expecting twins early next month — it widely was viewed as a callous scheme to shut him out of All-Star Weekend.
The NHL later said he could participate after all, and here he is. But not before he wrote an essay posted by The Players’ Tribune Thursday in which he accused the NHL of attempting to bully him into not playing.
“I had read a ton of articles and didn’t really care for some of them,” Scott said. “I Just wanted to get my voice heard and have it written my way.”
Scott said he assumes the NHL will tweak its voting process to avoid this sort of thing in the future. “But,” he added, “I think it’s a good thing for the game. Obviously it’s gotten a lot of publicity and a lot of people excited about watching the game.”
Everyone who follows the league is curious to see what the 3-on-3 tournament will be like, and in particular how Scott will fare in it.
“That’s the question of the day, right?” he said. “I don’t know. I’ve never played it, so I can’t really tell you. I guess I’ll have to wing it.”
Scott said he was heartened by the support he has gotten from fellow players.
The Flyers’ Claude Giroux said he plans to ask Scott for a signed stick. He might have better luck with that than a signed Scott All-Star T-shirt. Those are sold out in many places.
“I don’t think it was an easy situation for him or for the league,” the Islanders’ John Tavares said. “But he was voted in . . . Regardless of how it happened or how this came about, I think we’re all looking forward to seeing him here.”
Scott will captain the Pacific Division team. His helmet will bear an NHL logo, not one of the Coyotes, Canadiens or IceCaps. Next week, he is due to head back to Newfoundland.
“I’m going to enjoy it while I’m here,” he said, “and then go back to the real world.”