Welcome to NHL All-stars, John Scott

Written by Scott Custance Found on ESPN website: http://espn.go.com/nhl/story/_/id/14673972/nhl-welcome-nhl-all-star-weekend-john-scott

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — John Scott stepped into the large revolving door of his hotel and the intense hour he had just plowed through closed behind him.

For the first moment in a while, it was quiet.

“It was way more intense than I thought it would be,” Scott said. “Way more.”

One day after a Players’ Tribune piece shared his side of the story of how one of hockey’s last true enforcers was elected by fans into the NHL’s All-Star Game, Scott stepped into the media spotlight to answer all the questions that had been building before one of the most unique All-Star inclusions in NHL history.

Dressed in a gray All-Star hoodie, shorts and flip-flops, he sat behind the microphone in front of a pack of cameras, recorders and media loaded with questions, most of which he was ready for.

Yes, the league has been accommodating to him. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman even met with him briefly to make sure he felt welcome.

“It was a little awkward,” Scott said. “I’ve had run-ins with the league throughout my time.”

No, he doesn’t believe the fan vote will be back next season in its same form.

“They should do something, if they don’t want this to happen for sure,” Scott said. “I think this is a good thing for the game, obviously it’s gotten a lot of publicity. It’s gotten a lot of people excited to watch the game. You never know, it could be a good thing.”

One by one, the questions came and he had a quick answer. By the time he was asked which team he thought would win the Super Bowl, it was the sign the session was winding down.

“Don’t leave at the end,” Scott told the reporters. “I want to take a picture of you guys.”

He’d never had a moment like this. He might never again.

He moved from the podium to a television set, where he accidentally spilled water on his microphone on air.

“I’m nervous,” he joked.

He went from there to a radio interview, and then on his way back behind the scenes, he was handed a John Scott All-Star jersey for the first time, all of it recorded by a television crew.

He held the jersey in front of him.

“This is cool,” he said before wandering down a hallway to join a few gathered players. He stopped to chat with Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien and Dallas’ Jamie Benn. Scott handed Byfuglien his All-Star jersey.

“There’s a f—ing C on there,” Byfuglien said, smiling. “Even better.”

John Scott. All-Star captain. The reality that this was truly happening had arrived and everything was OK. His All-Star teammates were universally embracing him. The league had mended fences.

Finally, everyone was having fun with something that could have been fun from the start.

As he left the arena, fans calling his name lined up on either side of barriers, looking to get autographs from a guy who has clearly emerged as the centerpiece of this particular All-Star Game.

“It’s great having him here,” said fan Jon Williams, born and raised in Nashville. “He’s a dying breed.”

Scott posed for pictures. He signed autographs. A group of women took selfies with him in the background to permanently record their participation in the event.

“I’ve got to go back and check on my wife,” he said, trying to be both accommodating to fans and a devoted husband.

Back at his Nashville hotel room, his wife, Danielle, was waiting with their 2-year-old daughter, Gabriella.

Danielle is 36½ weeks pregnant. She’s due to have twins in six days. She needed a doctor’s note just to get permission to board a plane so close to her due date.

Before reuniting with John on Thursday, she hadn’t seen him since New Year’s Eve. Pregnant with twins, mother of two kids under 5 years old, and renovating a house back home in Traverse City, Michigan, that they’re moving into Monday, she has been dealing with a whirlwind of her own. She has had the support of her family through it all. After being traded across the continent, Scott didn’t have that support.

“I have the kids to preoccupy myself,” Danielle said. “I just think about him sitting in a hotel room in Newfoundland away from everybody having to deal with it all.”

People don’t always think of that side of it.

“You don’t want to complain because, yeah, you know,” she said. “Nobody likes to go through something difficult without your family. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living.”

Whatever you think of Scott’s decision to play in this All-Star Game, even the hardest heart can understand a husband and wife wanting to be there for each other during difficult times.

It was 15 hours of travel from home to Newfoundland — 15 hours she couldn’t make while pregnant and certainly won’t be able to make with four children once the twins arrive.

Of all the conversations that took place surrounding Scott and the All-Star Game, discovering he’d now be playing in Newfoundland was the hardest.

“We were looking at the schedule and figuring out when we could see each other,” Danielle said. “Three months for him not to see the kids is way too long. They’re so little.”

Danielle is resting comfortably in Scott’s hotel room as she talks. “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” is on the television for Gabriella, but nobody is watching.

Gabriella is playing with John in the other room with a couple of mini hockey sticks.

It’s a moment of normalcy in a time that has been so surreal.

From receiving a text that said Bettman wanted to chat to the constant buzzing of his phone from numbers he has never seen.

After his Players’ Tribune piece ran, he received encouraging texts from Toronto coach Mike Babcock as well as Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins, among many, many others.

“It’s just crazy they would reach out, go out of their way to text me at the All-Star break,” Scott said.

He stops talking a moment to lean down and give Gabriella a sip of water. His All-Star jersey is now draped over a pack-and-play.

It has been a crazy few weeks. Overwhelming at times, for sure. But right now, it’s all going just about as well as it possibly could.

Later, 4-year-old Eva will be arriving with Danielle’s parents. Soon, there will be two more children.

John had always told Danielle that they should visit Nashville together. It’s one of the great stops on the NHL tour.

This wasn’t necessarily how they imagined it, but they’ll take it.

“It’s so cool. I never thought I’d be here this pregnant,” she said.

And the twins have been active, a constant reminder of what’s to come.

“They’re moving around a lot,” she said before turning her attention to John standing nearby. “Now I feel fine because, it’s like, he’s here.”

 

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