Like every other major North American sports league, the NHL gives its fans the privilege of voting for the starters for the All-Star Game. But what’s the league to do when those fans treat it as a joke?
So now John Scott, who just happens to be leading all vote-getters in balloting for the All-Star Game, has been put on waivers by the Arizona Coyotes. That essentially means Scott isn’t even good enough to be playing in the NHL, forget about the league’s showcase game.
The truth is, John Scott isn’t even good enough to be playing the All-Star Game for the American League, which is where he could be plying his trade if (when) he clears waivers. Imagine the embarrassment the league would have to endure if the Coyotes are in the position of having to call Scott up so that he can play in the All-Star Game in Nashville. And imagine Scott trying to keep up with the best players in the league in a 3-on-3 tournament format.
This is an utter debacle for the league, one that is not really the NHL’s fault. Every major sports league in North America has a provision that allows the paying public to vote for starters in their respective all-star games. Done properly, it’s a way of engaging fans in the process and a fun way of giving them an opportunity to feel a part of the spectacle. And for the most part, it works. With the exception of baseball, all-star games are the biggest who cares of the season and have no lasting impact or any tangible effect on the league’s operations. They are essentially a showcase for sponsors and an opportunity to break up the season with a little fun. No harm, no foul.
The only exception to that is when the fans abuse the process, the way they’ve done by making Scott the leading candidate and how they’ve done in the past with the likes of Zemgus Girgensons and Rory Fitzpatrick. And there is a very, very easy fix for all of this. The NHL could simply take that privilege away from them.
Near as I can tell, the title sponsor for the weekend is Honda, but there doesn’t seem to be any corporation sponsoring the all-star ballot. So if the league were to decide to scrap the process – a decision that would be completely justified given how the fans have treated the process – it would not be affecting a relationship with one of its sponsors.
It’s one thing to load up votes for a player who may or may not be worthy of selection as an All-Star Game participant. That happens in other sports all the time. Fans vote for their favorite players and are encouraged by their teams to vote for their own players, but for the most part, they don’t have campaigns for players who have no business being there. As a league, you can live with that.
What you shouldn’t have to live with as a league is a portion of the fan base that thumbs its nose at you and makes an entire sham of the process. Whether they’re poking fun at the NHL, at John Scott or at themselves is irrelevant. Unlike in society, voting for the All-Star Game is a privilege, not a right. And when you abuse that privilege by casting multiple votes for a player who has fewer career points than 283 players in the league have this season, well, then that privilege is revoked.
Looking at the NBA’s fan voting process, it appears as though that league has gone to great lengths to ensure that fans can generally only vote for one player per day through its website and app, as well as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Are there ways fans can abuse this? Probably, but at least there is some attempt being made to guard against abuse. That might be a good thing for the NHL to pursue. Or, even better, the league could not allow votes for anyone but those on a list of players that has been pre-determined by the league. Not allowing any write-in votes would still give fans a say in who plays in the All-Star Game, all the while making it impossible for the John Scotts of the world to have any chance of ever playing.
Or the league could simply say to its fans, “Look, you’ve proved time and again that this is a process you refuse to take seriously, so after much reflection, the NHL has decided to take you out of the process.” Nobody could really blame the suits if that’s the course they took.