Sports

Blasberg ’18: Fans should not vote to determine All-Star players

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, February 5, 2016

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one skeptical as I turned on this year’s NHL All-Star Game. Last year’s 29-goal abomination of the sport made me sick. But hey, it’s better than watching the Pro Bowl.

Obviously, the biggest and strangest story surrounding the game was the advent of John Scott. Scott, a journeyman enforcer with only five NHL goals to his name, found himself with the Arizona Coyotes when an online campaign to vote him into the All-Star Game exploded.

The movement gained traction, and Scott became the player with the most votes, making him the Pacific Division’s team captain. The NHL shouted blasphemy and requested that Scott withdraw from the game, all the while manipulating a trade that resulted in Scott’s relocation to the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL affiliate. Because he was no longer on the roster of an NHL team and his NHL affiliate — the Montreal Canadiens — are not in the Coyotes’ division, Scott’s eligibility for the All-Star Game came into question.

But Scott refused to withdraw from the All-Star Game — rightfully so. He didn’t ask for the facetious votes, but he received them fairly. If he withdrew, it would set a precedent according to which the NHL could pick and choose which players would play in the All-Star Game.

Scott was ultimately able to compete in Sunday’s game and turned a farce into a positive experience. Other players would not have responded as well, viewing  the nomination as an insult and allowing pride get in the way of a truly special opportunity. Scott, however, was incredibly mature about the situation and made the most of his time at the All-Star Game. He played impressive hockey throughout the evening and ended up with two goals, enough to earn him the All-Star Game MVP Award.

When talking to the press, Scott said all the right things. He was genuinely thankful for the opportunity, he cracked jokes on live TV and he made his family a major part of his All-Star Game experience. His public image was so likeable that I couldn’t help but be happy for him. The grin that Scott wore after the game was priceless. It brought out the child in everyone who has dreamed of defying the odds on sports’ biggest stage. His teammates hoisted him up on their shoulders, reminiscent of the last scene of “Rudy.”

I loved the Scott saga. I could not turn the TV off at the end of the game. I ate it all up. But it should not happen again.

The NBA and NHL leave All-Star selection entirely up to the fans, generating an apparent lack of quality control.  This leads to undeserving fan favorites (cough, cough, Kobe Bryant) being voted into the games while deserving but lesser known players sit on the sidelines. With the exception of the MLB’s midsummer classic, All-Star games are meaningless. All-Star teams, however, can be important. A player’s selection to an All-Star team can be useful in determining his status while negotiating contracts and can highlight a very good season that is not MVP-worthy. On very rare occasions, lackluster players like Scott can be voted into an All-Star game. Seeing Scott in the All-Star uniform was great, but he did take the spot of a more talented and established player for whom an All-Star selection could have provided pivotal bargaining power in contract negotiations.

If the NHL continues to treat All-Star Game selections as legitimate accolades, the league should instate a player and coach’s poll to complement the fan vote. With the success of the campaign to vote Scott into this year’s All-Star Game, fans will definitely try it again in the future. The NHL cannot send one player per year to the AHL simply because fans choose to jokingly vote him into the All-Star Game. The selection process needs quality control now, or else the habit of taking the spot of a deserving player and giving it to a benchwarmer will become a tradition. 

It was fun this year, but that’s enough for me.

Charlie is currently staging a web campaign to nominate himself in the National Squash All-Star game. You can vote for him by emailing charlie_blasberg@brown.edu.

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