The NHL all-star game has always been something of a joke. It has a long and storied history of players suspiciously becoming “injured” before the all star break, seemingly to take advantage of an extended mid-season vacation. The 2016 All Star Game was the exception to this, and not because the NHL chose to make it fun, but because they had to. 2016 saw the NHL attempt to involve its fans more in the all star game by giving them the ability to vote for the players who would serve as the captain of each division’s All Star Team. The NHL made the assumption that the players voted by the fans would be elite players, but they made the same mistake that many companies make; they expected the internet to take their poll seriously. Just as people on the internet voted to name the new flavour of Mountain Dew “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong”, they voted for noted enforcer/goon John Scott to captain the Pacific Division All Star team.
What followed was a soap opera of he said/she said. A shady trade to get Scott out of the division, a sketchy phone call with an unknown representative from the league who asked Scott “Do you think this is something your children would be proud of?”. All of this was detailed by Scott in a self authored tell all in The Players’ Tribune, a platform for professional athletes to tell personal stories that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to share with their fans. In the end, Scott was allowed to represent the Pacific Division in the All Star Game, he scored two goals, and became the write in MVP (more on that later) in front of his pregnant wife and children. You literally cannot write this stuff.
Instead of trying to make the All Star Game a stern and serious affair, the NHL needs to learn from this. Fans want it to be fun and John Scott made it fun. Their first mistake was the fan poll. I mentioned the Mountain Dew poll either, but there are other examples. Then they tried to bury John Scott on Montreals minor team in Newfoundland in an effort to keep him away from their precious All Star game. They didn’t count on him taking to the internet to fight back. The push back against the league was so huge that Scott was allowed to play, and play he did. In a final effort to “save” the integrity of the game, the NHL posted a twitter poll to vote for the MVP of the game, and Scott was not listed. The atmosphere in that Nashville arena was deafening. Chants of “MVP”rained down, and Scott became the write in candidate. The NHL showed not only their disconnect from their fans, but from the trends of the internet. The initial poll was hijacked by fans who thought the all star game was a joke, then he fueled the fire and brought them to his side with his article in The Players’ Tribune. The NHL needs to modernize and show that they understand social media and what their fans want. And probably apologize to John Scott at some point.