I’m sitting at the Calgary airport waiting to board a flight for Sunday’s Rogers Hometown Hockey broadcast in Grande Prairie, and I thought I would fill the two-hour layover with a few thoughts concerning the John Scott All-Star Game story.
Scott was voted into the game in Nashville by the fans. His inclusion based on his resume — notably his measly 5 career goals — rankled many observers, and I know from speaking with NHL front office staff that his selection by the public was unpopular with the league.
Scott was reportedly told by the NHL and Arizona Coyotes to bow out. It’s a study in class. Class is many things to different people, but for the majority — if you eliminate religion and race for a moment and keep it strictly socioeconomic — then for the better part of a century, class has consisted of the upper crust, the middle class, the working class and the poor.
Here in North America, the class system has shifted away from the European model of inherited order to the more American version known as meritocracy.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote early on about all this in his two-volume work, Democracy in America, published in 1835 and 1840. It came with a few warnings: one was along the lines of, “America is great because it is good. If it stops being good it will fail.” Good is the fairness with which we approach our affairs. Egalitarian. Inclusive. We know that the system is not perfect. Those with money, education and connections pass them on to their children, and when the kids succeed, we call it meritocracy.
Not everyone has that opportunity. Still, we have left the aristocratic era for a more democratic order. Not everyone remains poor or pigeonholed in our society. And more and more whatever lies in front of us, we get to be ourselves.
And we should never be limited by our personal history. I have covered enough All-Star games to know the joy a surprise starter brings. Chris “Knuckles” Nilan in 1991 or Brad Marsh (23 goals in 1,000 games) who scored at the 1993 game in Montreal.
But the real story here is the levers of class; government — or in this case, the NHL and its member clubs.
The league needs to be good if it wishes to be great. John Scott, by the ideals of meritocracy, has worked hard, received a four-year education at Michigan Tech, and sustained a career in professional hockey since 2006. He has earned our admiration and respect. He will not be an embarrassment.
During the 2004-05 lockout, Jamie Allison skated in my Adult Safe Hockey League. He was and still is spellbinding to watch. He now runs a hockey academy in Oakville. His stride is powerful. He reminds me of Paul Coffey.
The year he played with us, he truly played with us. He would go end-to-end anytime, all the time, and then try and set someone up for a goal. His stick-handling was amazing to us. He scored at will, but never when his team was ahead. Jamie played 12 years in the NHL, just shy of 400 games. He scored just seven goals. It was because he played defence, and in the role he was given, was the “stay-at-home” partner.
I don’t like the way John Scott is being treated, nor do I accept what’s being implied about the fans and their place in this equation. Alexis de Tocqueville also warned, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
Now, I think of what is happening to John Scott. I think of the paying customers being told what’s in their best interest.
And I ponder the lessons of democracy.