NASHVILLE — John Scott expected his NHL All-Star experience "to be in the background, enjoying it behind the scenes."
He could not have imagined that he would be standing at center ice accepting the MVP honor after playing a significant role in helping the Pacific Division win the NHL's first 3-on-3 All-Star tournament. Fans in Bridgestone Arena chanted "MVP! MVP! MVP!" when his face appeared on the scoreboard video screen.
"It is so nice for people to see who he really is," said his wife Danielle, who is 37 weeks pregnant with twins. "He has been portrayed in the media for so long as this nasty guy, and he really isn't."
NHL officials said after the game that Scott had not been listed on the MVP ballot that fans voted on electronically, but they chose him as a write-in candidate. It was appropriate given how he became an All-Star. Scott started this ride as a controversial All-Star and he ended up as a folk hero, mostly because he was continually classy and could play at a higher level than people realized.
"I think (fans) saw his character, what a fun guy he is," said San Jose Sharks Joe Pavelski, a former teammate.
Pacific Division teammates lifted the 275-pound Scott on their shoulders after the game. The NHL couldn't buy a marketing campaign that would produce the good will that Scott generated with his All-Star performance.
"This is like a dream," said his wife, who will have labor induced in four days.
Scott has spent eight seasons as an NHL tough guy, known more for his fights than his scoring potential. He became an All-Star captain after a Yahoo! podcast, followed by a Reddit campaign, promoted the idea that he should be voted into the game through fan balloting.
He never campaigned to be an All-Star and said that his Arizona Coyotes teammates deserved it more. But he was selected anyway. After he accepted the invitation to play, he was criticized in the media and then was demoted. The Coyotes traded him to the Montreal Canadiens, who also sent him to the minors.
Scott said in a Players' Tribune essay last week that the NHL pressured him to pull out of the game.
However, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with him Thursday night and told him that he was being welcomed with open arms.
Fellow All-Stars stood up for him Friday at media day, and suddenly he seemed like a lovable underdog. That certainly seemed true after he scored twice to help the Pacific Division down the favored Central Division 9-6 in the semifinal.
"He is a great player," Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said. "For him to get to this level, in this league, he has to be a good player. You have be able to skate. It was great for him to show how great of a player he is."
It was Pavelski's idea to pick up Scott. In the post-game news conference, he admitted he was worried for his safety because he weighs "about 300 pound soaking wet" when he is in full gear.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Scott's selection shouldn't be viewed as a sentimental selection.
"He deserved it," Stamkos said. "I think deep down everyone wanted to see him do well, and he did."
The Canadiens don't seem to have plans to promote Scott, but at the very least he has proved he can hold his own in a skill game. Everyone already knew how tough he is.
"He had a great showing here," Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban said. "It is a big stage and he performed well on it. I don't know what (the Canadiens) are going to do."
Bettman added a few kind words as he presented Scott the symbolic $1 million check that will be split by Pacific Division players. According to Scott, Bettman said he was proud of him.
"It worked out good for everybody," Bettman told Scott.
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