MONTREAL, QC. — “It’s almost like a movie, right!?”
That was John Scott speaking to reporters at the Bell Sports Complex after practicing with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday morning in Brossard.
It’s a well-oiled phrase that Scott has used often in interviews over the past few months to waves of reporters who have trekked to St. John’s or small towns in upstate New York to get in on the spectacle. Said with a smile and followed with a chuckle in the crowded Montreal dressing room, the practiced words had the desired effect. The line was delivered, the Montreal media laughed along.
Almost like a movie, indeed. Or perhaps a circus.
However you choose to describe the scene, it’s not hockey. And yet there are plenty of ‘fans’ who are blinded by the appeal of a BIG, shiny object.
“My Daddy told me, “Glitter ain’t gold, young boy. So save yourself a whole lot of pain.”” — Glitter Ain’t Gold (Jumpin’ For Nothin’), Gary Clark Jr.
For true hockey fans, there has been a lot of pain in Montreal this season, figuratively, and with all the injuries, literally too. But what is far more concerning are the flagrant mistakes made by the management of this organization. And try as they might, those don’t get washed away by a standing ovation at the Bell Centre from fans who crave the opportunity to join the extravaganza.
The Canadiens fanbase, once self-proclaimed as the smartest in the league, have given way to those who are easily impressed by t-shirt cannons, the kiss-cam and smiling 6-foot-8-inch goons.
The term ‘goon’ is hardly complimentary and one from which Scott has tried to distance himself. He is now described as an NHL All-Star, locker room mentor or AHL power-play specialist.
Like a movie, each of these may contain a grain of truth, but considerable liberty has been taken for dramatic effect. And it would seem that propping up the artificial narrative is the only thing that matters now at the end of a dreadful season for this once proud franchise.
“Honestly, no one could ever script this would happen,” said Scott speaking to the AP at the end of March.
Stashed away, almost like it never happened is the true resume of John Scott. Until January, he was considered, for good reason, one of the dirtiest players ever to play in the NHL. His ‘accomplishments’ were tallied in penalty minutes, illegal hits and numbers of games of suspension.
He was described as a “predator” whose on-ice mission was “to seek out and destroy.”
There was a blindside headshot on Loui Erikkson, a sucker punch to the face of Tim Jackman and instigating a line brawl when he went after Phil Kessel. The victims aren’t exactly the most sympathetic trio for Canadiens fans, but not the model citizen that he is being portrayed as now. In November 2013, Habs defenceman Douglas Murray was bloodied over the eye when he stood up for Andrei Markov, after Scott knocked the defenceman into the net from behind.
‘We never liked Murray anyway,’ will, no doubt, cross the minds of a few. But that’s hardly the point now, is it?
Some fans claimed that his pugilistic prowess was the reason Marc Bergevin added Scott to the young squad in St. John’s. Privately, IceCaps players scoffed at the suggestion that they needed the protection of one of the NHL’s premier goons. ‘We can take care of ourselves’ was the response.
It turns out that they were right. In 27 games with St. John’s, Scott has just three fighting majors. His second fight came, a little late to the party, in a game after four IceCaps dropped the gloves. Before and after his arrival, the IceCaps were taking care of themselves.
Ironically, the one player who stepped up to defend his teammates on every occasion was Stefan Fournier. He was shipped to the Arizona Coyotes as part of the John Scott trade. With the arrival of Scott as the IceCaps ‘enforcer,’ Eric Neilson‘s professional tryout contract was terminated.
The newly-minted darling of the sports world was spending more time entertaining reporters than protecting teammates in his stint in St. John’s. So he didn’t hesitate to toss his mates under the bus when he told a New York Times scribe, “They usually want to go out and get drunk and stay out all night. I just want to have a couple of beers and go home.”
Privately, his IceCaps teammates were less than pleased.
Scott didn’t offer an apology for his irresponsible comments. He explained that he was “taken out of context.” A veteran team guy, a mentor, doesn’t make that mistake. A guy caught up in his own new-found celebrity does.
“I was joking,” said Scott. Like his selection to the All-Star game, I guess. A mockery by fans of a once grand tradition propelled by an internet site looking for hits.
Fans so willing to ignore sketchy resumes, trash traditions and enthusiastically embrace thugs, speak to the hatred towards the league and its executives. The NHL was only too willing to ditch its pride and board the populist train called John Scott. The awkward moments for Gary Bettman only ramped up the entertainment.
The Canadiens claimed to be different. Following the absurd trade involving their former first round draft pick, they immediately shipped Scott to St. John’s letting him know that he would not play a game for the Montreal Canadiens.
But it seems that the Habs are flexible on that whole ‘my word is my bond’ thing. Mike McCarron knows all about that having received a promise that he would finish out the regular season with the Canadiens. Funny though that there isn’t the same wiggle room when it comes to the guarantee given to coach Michel Therrien who has presided over one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
So why would the Canadiens go back on their word to call up Scott? Could it have anything to do with the empty seats and dismal atmosphere at the Bell Centre lately? Or perhaps the marketing folks are hoping for a positive mention in the upcoming Scott bio-flick?
Because rewarding a ‘protector’, a ‘good teammate’, ‘a classy player’; those labels simply don’t apply.
“We’re a step away from breaking down. I need something good.
Something’s going on here. Something’s going wrong. Running out of time here. But I’m still waiting for something.” — Gary Clark Jr.
The value of a callup to the NHL is being diminished. The ‘what-can-it-hurt?’ crowd have never spoken to a prospect hoping for their first chance in the spotlight or a griseled AHL veteran who knows that the days of fulfilling his ultimate dream are fading. Worse still is the dejection of the rookie dispatched to the farm to make way for the temporary celebrity.
But this is the reality of a franchise who has lost its way. One who has allowed outside priorities to interfere with a singular goal of competing for the Cup. One who will callously treat their potential future stars in favor of a quick cash grab.
There is no doubt that sports is entertainment. But when hockey principles are set aside in pursuit of entertainment, the dream of number 25 becomes further away. Fans who have watched this team for decades seriously ask ‘Will I see another in my lifetime?’
Winning the Stanley Cup is hard, even for those franchises who actually take the business of hockey seriously.
“The light is at the end of the tunnel. Or is it just a runaway train.” — Gary Clark Jr.
For now, the Canadiens will trot out John Scott, All-Star MVP, for a one-night showing at the Bell Centre as their lipstick on the pig of this season.
There will be no playoffs in Montreal this Spring. A Stanley Cup is no where in sight. But expect your franchise to play a bit part in the movie due to be released in 2018.