Now that we know he will captain the Pacific Division team at the NHL's all-star game, we can draw a few lessons from the John Scott Affair.
First, people are jerks. Everyone involved in this silliness came off as tone-deaf schmucks.
There are the "fans" who voted Scott – a career minor leaguer who, in the rare instances when he's in the bigs, might be the NHL's least talented player – onto the team. They've spent many weeks now moaning about their "rights," the faults in the "process" and a lot of other ideas that require ironic quotation marks.
Yes, NHL all-star voting is a fiasco. It's a fiasco in every league. That wasn't a point that required illustrating. Yet some people did anyway – the main effect of which was embarrassing someone (Scott) badly in need of a public reminding that he's not Rocket Richard reincarnated. Congratulations. You got your way.
Now that you've spoken truth to power, I look forward to your other hockey-centric acts of progressive social disobedience. Maybe you can all get together and TP Gary Bettman's house.
In response to this minor annoyance, the NHL had three options.
The best of them was to embrace the foolishness – wrap a marketing campaign around the semi-comic rise of a Canadian-born refrigerator-on-skates who just happens to have an engineering degree. There is a rich vein of public-relations gold in the Scott story. The NHL chose not to mine it.
The second-best idea was ignoring it altogether. Let the vote play out, shrug your shoulders and blame the fans. No one watches the all-star game. From a ratings point of view, you'd be better off nominating skating bears than humans. So, honest to God, who cares who plays?
Instead, the NHL chose the third way – raising its alert level to DEFCON 1.
The league may have asked Scott to turn down his all-star berth (and the sizable cash bonus that goes along with it). After he refused, it may have engineered Scott's late-in-the-day trade out of the Pacific Division. It may have forced the Montreal Canadiens to accept him as human baggage, so that he could immediately be demoted to the American Hockey League.
It may have done a bunch of things. All that matters is that that's what everyone thinks it did.
Since no one has explicitly denied that the NHL tried to torpedo John Scott for the sin of being an unwilling cause célèbre, let's assume the worst. It's usually the safest bet.
The NHL is already the most fun-free sports league in the world. Eventually, someone will be flogged in the centre circle after riding their stick up the ice or fist-pumping above shoulder level. We are constantly being reminded that hockey is a serious business for serious people and that no one takes it more seriously than the NHL. It's like the Politburo without the open bar.
The general over-reaction to the Scott situation is the ne plus ultra of this impulse. The league's backers have grown so campy in their whinging about affronts to hockey's integrity, you half-expect them to get on TV wearing face paint and capes.
Let us always remember that this is a winter sport played by people wearing thermal shorts. Adjust your Serious-O-Meter accordingly.
Amidst all the shirt-rending and back-and-forthing, the only person who has not come off looking like a total goof is John Scott.
Until this began, we knew Scott as a galumphing, one-man line brawl who once so frightened Phil Kessel that the then-Maple Leaf began chopping at him like he was a tree. It was a dumb mistake to make – Scott is a lot bigger than any tree and moves just a little bit faster.
This unwelcome notoriety has allowed us to get to know a different Scott – an articulate, self-effacing guy with a decent sense of humour. He's only played for an hour in the NHL this year, but his scrum delivery is elite level.
"I've talked to the team all year, actually, and they've held me out of a lot of games just to keep me fresh for the all-star game," Scott deadpanned. "We've been preparing for this since the off-season."
A lot of people would have found this experience excruciating. Scott probably has. But he's walked a fine line for nearly two months – being in on the joke, while letting everyone know he understands he's meant to be the butt of it.
We talk a lot about dignity in the sports context. Far too much, really. This was one of the rare instances where someone showed a great deal of that quality while under significant pressure.
If this has been an unnecessary cloud over the NHL, Scott is his own silver lining. He reminds us that part of hockey's allure remains the people who exist on its fringes. There are no "bad" players in the NHL. Everyone who's taken the ice at that level was a star until they got there.
Instead, there are a few who play long past the point when most people would have moved on – lifers, strivers, guys who don't hear the words "No, you can't."
Scott is no Crosby or Ovechkin, but that's why his inclusion seems oddly deserved. He represents all the just-barely-there big-leaguers who give the game its human texture.
Evidently, the NHL has an ounce of sense, since it decided on Tuesday to include Scott in its mid-season sideshow. If they could find a second, NHL officials would be celebrating the part of the game he stands for. There are still a great many people who want to see their hockey idols – multi-millionaires nearly to a man – as working-class heroes. Scott might actually be one.
At the very least, he's accomplished something no NHL player of recent vintage has managed in a very long time – he's made me want to watch the all-star game.