Stepping up: My take: Sports are special

Published 5:58 pm Monday, February 1, 2016

Everyone that’s ever watched one of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries knows that sports are special. There are stories every so often that as you watch them, make you stand up and cheer or can pull at your very heartstrings.

We witnessed one of those this past weekend.

Let’s back up a bit. Earlier in the season, the National Hockey League announced a new format for its All-Star Game. The four divisions would compete in a 3-on-3 tournament and the team captains would be determined by a fan vote. The voters decided on a few household names in Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin to lead their respective squads. All are eventual hall of famers.

There was one oddity, though. A fan movement pushed for John Scott to captain the Pacific. Scott is a journeyman forward who has played for the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks and, most recently, the Arizona Coyotes.

He is an imposing 6-foot-8 and 270 pounds. He isn’t known for any skill or finesse like many of the others that played in the All-Star Game. He’s an enforcer. His trade isn’t smooth passes and highlight-reel goals; it’s beating up an opponent and making his team’s all stars feel safe.

Understandably so, the NHL didn’t want him to play in the game. There was plenty of drama leading up to the weekend, including Scott being traded to the Montreal Canadiens and immediately being assigned to their minor league affiliate in Newfoundland.

But he made it to Nashville this past weekend and it was one of the best stories hockey has ever seen.

The Pacific met the Central in the first game of the 3-on-3 tournament. Scott scored two goals to help his team win, 9-6, and advance to the championship round against the Atlantic Division. He even jokingly dropped the gloves with Chicago superstar Patrick Kane.

Let it be known that Scott has scored just 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 285 career NHL games. Only twice in his career has he had multiple points in an entire season, let alone in a game.

The fans that campaigned for this formerly unknown, but deserving player were vocal throughout the games. Part of his allure is that’s he’s a family man and just a genuinely nice guy. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s had to fight day in and day out throughout his career just to keep playing pro hockey. Whatever it is, the “MVP” chants the fans rained down on him made it clear that Scott is a relatable figure and that the fans enjoyed seeing him capture their imaginations while under the brightest spotlight of his entire life.

Scott won Most Valuable Player, too, despite not being on the ballot. Twitter was temporarily overrun by #VoteMVPScott — including tweets from the official accounts of many NHL teams — which propelled the unlikely all star to win as a write-in candidate.

The ovation did not cease as Scott was interviewed on the ice. He was cut off in the middle of an answer when his teammates came and lifted him up on their shoulders.

Then, on Monday, Scott was named the NHL’s No. 1 “Star of the Week.”

It’s moments like these that remind us why we love sports. It’s the unlikeliest of heroes that warm our hearts. It’s easy to get caught up in the competition itself and forget about the person in the uniform. That’s why it’s so incredible to watch a sincerely good person like Scott get recognized in a way he never thought he would.

Should such a figure get voted into the game every year? No, but this one exception made for a unique weekend that reminded everyone that the title “all star” isn’t reserved just for those with transcendent skill. There are all stars like this in every walk of life; people who don’t get the admiration and recognition they deserve.

It’s something truly moving when they are honored in such a way as John Scott was.