TORONTO — John Scott’s cross-continent journey has turned into an unexpected boon for the St. John’s IceCaps.
The American Hockey League franchise has seen a substantial uptick in social media attention and media requests thanks to Scott’s highly publicized appearance at the NHL all-star game.
“It’s been pretty crazy, I dare say pretty unprecedented for our team to get this much play,” said IceCaps director of communications David Salter.
He said the attention around Scott has put the IceCaps, and the city of St. John’s, on the map for those who may have been previously unfamiliar with the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Salter knew a “storm” was coming when Scott, the fans’ ironic choice to captain one of four all-star teams, was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to Montreal in mid-January, then promptly assigned to St. John’s. Like many, he wondered if the NHL was simply trying to prevent the player who scored five goals in 285 career NHL games from playing in the showcase event.
“It was a story no matter what happened,” Salter said.
The hype grew when Scott stole the show Sunday in Nashville, earning all-star MVP honours.
The IceCaps’ Twitter account was swamped with fans requesting they change their handle to the St. John Scott IceCaps. The team finally relented, posting “Ok, you win.”
Salter said demand for T-shirts and jerseys has increased, while American sports broadcasting giant ESPN is among those flooding the team with media requests.
Scott has played in only two home games for St. John’s thus far, but Salter said fans are clamouring to see him. It could be a boost in the stands for St. John’s, which averages nearly 6,000 fans per game, 11th-best in the AHL.
“People have very quickly adopted him here,” Salter said.
The surge in attention has also been positive for Scott, who is playing on his fourth consecutive one-year contract.
He hoped his unlikely all-star experience might open a few doors, and it appears it has. Scott has received a couple books offers and there is even potential for a movie, according to his agent Ben Hankinson.
Fans also took to social media Monday, suggesting the struggling Canadiens call up the enforcer.
“John’s life has definitely changed in the past month,” Hankinson said by email.
Scott, probably known best previously for a sparring match with then-Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel before the 2013 season, was voted in as the fans’ choice for Pacific Division captain in early January. He was promptly traded two weeks later and immediately assigned to St. John’s, where it was presumed his bid for all-star game contention would end.
The move was seen by some, including Scott, as the NHL’s attempt to keep him from playing in the game. In an article penned for the Players’ Tribune website, Scott said the league asked him to withdraw.
He declined, proceeding to capture the spotlight from the NHL’s biggest stars.
Scott scored twice to much delight in the semifinals of the all-star tournament and then fired two shots on goal in the Pacific Division’s 1-0 win in the final. In addition to Scott being named MVP, his team was awarded the US$1-million winner-take-all-prize. The six-foot-eight, 260-pound forward was then named the NHL’s first star of the week Monday.
“You can’t put it into words, you can’t write this stuff,” Scott said Sunday. “It was a whirlwind and it went by so fast, but I loved it. It was probably the coolest thing I have done in hockey.”
Players, fans and coaches alike were thrilled, too.
Henrik Lundqvist, the New York Rangers Vezina trophy-winning goaltender, posted to Twitter: “Love it!!! Have not smiled this much in a long time watching a hockey game.”
Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, moved by Scott’s honest description of his all-star journey, sent a text message to the Michigan Tech grad to express his support.
“He didn’t set up the rules, he was just voted there, nominated to be there or whatever you want to call it and I just didn’t feel the treatment was right,” Babcock said. “This isn’t going to change who he is, but it gave him a nice weekend.”