MONTREAL - John Scott’s 2015-16 season was more than just long and arduous, it was the kind of stuff that Hollywood movies are made of -- literally.
Back when the calendars still read 2015, a social media campaign aimed at pushing an unlikely Scott to the forefront of the All-Star fan vote gained unexpected traction. In a blink of an eye - on the heels of a surprising trade to Montreal from the Arizona Coyotes – the St. John’s IceCaps 6’’8 left-winger was suddenly thrust into the spotlight of the NHL’s All-Star weekend in Nashville, Tennessee.
After the veteran scrapper left Nashville with the All-Star Game MVP honors, one thing was clear; a stage was set for a Hollywood movie chronicling Scott’s life, all it needed was an ending.
On Tuesday evening the Montreal Canadiens organization helped pen the final chapters of the Scott saga by rewarding the lighthearted, team-first veteran with an opportunity to lace up his skates for a game against the Florida Panthers in front an excited Bell Centre crowd.
“It would have been nice to have gone out with a win. But I was mostly just hoping for a good crowd and a good atmosphere and the fans certainly didn’t disappoint. I had a lot fun out there,” confirmed an emotional Scott, who was treated to a resounding applause when his name was surprisingly announced in the starting lineup. “I was surprised to find out that I was in the starting lineup. That was a nice gesture. That’s just what this organization here in Montreal is all about. It is a classy organization and I don’t deserve any of this. To put me out there for the starting lineup, that was really, really nice. I wasn’t expecting any of that to happen.”
For the fans that are less familiar with the fearless enforcer’s story, you might be surprised to hear that Scott’s first hockey fight didn’t come until he reached the age of 23; which is much later in comparison to his peers in the fist-throwing fraternity.
As the players in the Canadiens room would attest, Scott is the kind of player who wears his heart on a sleeve. That genuine characteristic was quite evident on the eight-year NHL veteran’s face as he passionately addressed the media in Montreal for perhaps the final time.
“It’s a fairly emotional moment for me right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen next and it’s very emotional. You are always aware of the fans during an NHL game. You can hear the crowd, especially in this building. The fans in Montreal are always loud and they pay close attention to the games. It’s nice to be acknowledged by the crowd for making a good play.
You feed off that as a player and I can’t imagine playing 82 games here. It is just such a good atmosphere in this building,” admired the 33-year-old, who approached tonight’s game with the same professionalism he showed throughout all of the adversity thrown his way this season. “You never know what’s coming next. That could have been my last game. It’s an emotional experience so you try to block all of that out until after the game. Now I just have to move on and deal with it.”
According to bench boss Michel Therrien, the Habs organization wanted to reward the deserving gentlemen - who has handled an otherwise difficult situation with nothing but pure class - with the chance to potentially close out his career with a storied NHL franchise like the Montreal Canadiens.
“Ever since he first joined our organization he’s been nothing but a real pro. He was great with the young kids over in St. John’s. It’s been a unique season for him as we all know and we wanted to do the right thing. We wanted to give him the opportunity to start and to finish the game on the ice. Tonight was special for John, so we wanted to therefore make sure that we handled tonight the right way. It was an emotional day for him. I have to thank the fans for their support tonight; they were really supportive of him all evening,” noted coach Therrien, who rewarded the Edmonton, Alberta native with a season-high 9:01 of ice-time.
“Marc [Bergevin] also met him after the game to offer him the chance to end his season a bit early in order to get back home. It’s been two months since he’s been able to really go home and see his wife and his young children. His family means the world to him so we wanted to make sure he was given the opportunity to go home after all of this.”
When Scott does finally make it back home, he will have a handful of new pieces to add to his memorabilia collection, a year’s worth of text messages from friends and family, and one heck of a story to tell.
Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com.
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