Even though the NHL plans to continue to have populist voting for the All-Star Game, it’s still unclear whether or not the John Scott debacle/public relations miracle might ever happen again. And the reason for that is that the term “bona fide NHL player” leaves things open to an awful lot of interpretation.
To recap: Scott was voted to the Pacific Division team for the All-Star Game last season on a lark, basically to poke fun at the absurdity of the event. Scott was not only voted to the starting roster, but he was named captain because, despite the fact he was a write-in candidate, he garnered the most votes. It looked like an embarrassment of biblical proportions for the NHL and even prompted the Arizona Coyotes to trade Scott, with his wife nine months pregnant with twins, to the Montreal Canadiens so they could take one for the team and send him to the minors. When that didn’t work, someone from the league called Scott and asked him, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”
But then something more outrageous happened. Scott played in the all-star tournament and was named MVP. The league came out looking great again, which once again proves that the NHL continues to thrive despite the people who run it.
Almost everyone assumed the league would do something to prevent it from ever happening again, but now we’re not so sure. Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada reported Saturday night that there would be no substantive changes to the voting procedure, leading many to believe that a repeat of the Scott situation could indeed happen.
But thn.com has learned that might not be the case. And it all centers around the definition of a “bona fide NHL player.” As was told to thn.com by a league source, “There will be parameters put around what it means to be an NHL player. The intent is to allow populist voting if that’s what the fans want to do, but players elected have to be bona fide NHLers.”
So that begs the question, would Scott have been considered a bona fide NHL player? The source wasn’t about to speculate. It’s an interesting question. If you measure a bona fide NHL player against Scott’s situation last season, it would be very difficult to argue that he wasn’t one at the time. Scott played just 11 games for the Coyotes from the beginning of the season until Jan. 1 and had been put on waivers by the Coyotes and cleared three times. But through that entire time, Scott was on the Coyotes active roster and payroll, even though he was playing in roughly one of every four games and was averaging just 6:18 in ice time per game. In fact, he wasn’t sent to the minors until Jan. 13, a full week after the rosters had been named for the All-Star Game.
So perhaps the league plans to install some sort of criteria that would keep players such as Scott out of the game, such as ice time per game or games played. That way, it would be able to keep voting open to the masses, yet reserve the right not to have itself embarrassed again by having a player in the game who, essentially, has no business being there.
Of course, the league could have done this by simply supplying fans with a ballot of players upon whom they could vote and not allow any write-in candidates. But it doesn’t seem as though the league is willing to go this route. But if you’re thinking of starting a campaign to get Eric Boulton (who is currently playing in the American League) elected into the game, it probably won’t result in him actually going to Los Angeles.
One thing is clear. There will be restrictions placed by the NHL on which players will and will not be eligible to participate. Whether a “bona fide NHL player” would include someone of John Scott’s ilk is uncertain. You want to get a Zemgus Girgensons or Rory Fitzpatrick in the game? Knock yourself out. But something tells me the league isn’t prepared to go through the Scott situation again and will make sure it doesn’t happen.