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NHL wisely adopts 'John Scott Rule' to prevent all-star fiascos

John Scott was legitimately voted into the All-Star Game last season and played, despite efforts to pressure him to opt out. That won't happen again, thanks to an NHL rule change.

Over the years, the NHL has had a number of its rules inspired by the actions of individual players. You have the Martin Brodeur Rule (which inspired the trapezoid), the Sean Avery Rule (players doing stupid stuff in front of a goalie) and the Matt Cooke Rule (headshots). In the 1950s, the NHL passed the rule allowing a team killing a penalty to get its player back after a goal against solely because the Montreal Canadiens were too good on the power play.

And now we have the John Scott Rule, which will come into effect for the voting process for this year’s All-Star Game. Not sure whether the NHL wants to avoid the whole mess the John Scott Affair created last season or, knowing how wildly successful it all turned out, want to avoid tempting fate ever again, but it has basically ensured that it will never happen again.

When the league announced its balloting for the All-Star Game for this season, it did so with the following new guidelines for fan balloting:

  • The 2017 NHL All-Star Fan Vote will allow fans to vote for one all-star player from each division, without regard to position. The top vote getter from each Division will be named an NHL all-star, as well as captain of his respective team.
  • Eligible players must be on an NHL club’s active roster as of Nov. 1. Any player not on the active roster on that date due to injury or special circumstances can be added to the ballot if/when he returns to the NHL club’s active roster.
  • If a player is assigned/loaned to the American League or any other minor league team between Nov. 1 and 5 p.m. on Jan. 26, the player is not eligible in all-star balloting. However, if the minor league assignment/loan is due to conditioning reasons, the player remains eligible.
  • In the event a vote leader is disqualified due to a minor league assignment or loan (or other reason) after close of the NHL All-Star Fan Vote on Jan. 2, the player with the second-most votes in that division will be named captain.
  • Fans will be permitted to vote for a player from a list of all players that meet these eligibility guidelines. The list of eligible players will be updated as players are assigned to a minor league team or return from IR.

Now the league could have simply remedied all of this by simply not allowing write-in ballots and limiting voting to a list of players that had already been culled by the league. But in its efforts to once again be all things to all people, the NHL decided it still wants to give fans the freedom to vote for the player(s) of their choice without allowing them to hijack the process and create a circus by voting for a player who clearly doesn’t belong.

And good on the league for doing that. It essentially had to allow Scott to play last season, but as Scott later said, he got a call from a league executive leaning heavily on him to withdraw from the event, something he was not prepared to do. It made the league look petty and dictatorial and garnered even more support for Scott.

But the fact remains, no matter how wonderful it all turned out, John Scott did not deserve to be in last year’s All-Star Game. He had the right to be there because he was voted in by the fans, but that’s a far cry from the notion that he belonged there. Because he did not. He was a journeyman enforcer who was only voted into the game to illustrate what a sham the All-Star Game actually is. Even after he was dealt to the Atlantic Division Montreal Canadiens and subsequently sent to the minors, Scott remained captain of the Pacific Division team and ended up winning MVP honors.

So under these new rules, Scott would have been deemed ineligible to play. Yes, the All-Star Game is a meaningless exhibition, but there’s no way the NHL could have ever hoped for it to be treated legitimately had it kept the current rules in place. And even though the league wanted Scott to bow out of the game on his own last season, it actually wasn’t the bad guy in all of this. In fact, the league was reportedly livid at the Arizona Coyotes for trading Scott to the Canadiens during the process. The man’s wife was about to give birth to twins and it was a callous thing to do, dispatching him to the minors in Newfoundland.

The NHL is not exactly telling fans they cannot have nice things, even though the way they’ve abused this process over the years might indicate otherwise. There has been support for players such as Rory Fitzpatrick and Zemgus Girgensons in the past and the current rules would do nothing to prevent fans from banding together to get players of that ilk into the All-Star Game again. But it will be able to prevent the John Scott situation from resurfacing, one that produced the best possible result last year, but was far too filled with land mines to expect any kind of positive result again.


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