As the countdown to the Chicago Blackhawks 2018-19 season continues, we’ll take a look at one player who best wore the same number as there are days left until October 4 when the season kicks off against the Ottawa Senators.
The Chicago Blackhawks 2019 regular season is rapidly approaching. Well, rapidly as in it’s been just twenty-four hours since we last had this discussion.
Yesterday, we detailed Scott Darling at no. 33 and his long road to the NHL.
Today, as there are 32 days until the start of the season, we’ll look at one Chicago Blackhawks player who wore no. 32 in years past.
Before we begin, it’s necessary to acknowledge the overwhelming encouragement from the Chicago Blackhawks’ following on Twitter to use this day to talk about Chicago Blackhawks Legend Michal Rozsival.
And, as much as it’s fun to joke about Rozsival’s role on the roster, he was an instrumental piece of the puzzle that made up the 2013 Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks.
He had a strong veteran presence on the team and, at the time, still was a defenseman who could and would make smart decisions. Playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 35 years old, Rozsival’s TOI (time on ice) was over 19 minutes. Additionally, his +/- was +9 on the playoffs and +18 in the regular season.
People tend to forget the role he played (before he became the Rozsival we all think of today) however one role I’ll never forget belongs to a different no. 32.
Kris Versteeg was a strong contender to be chosen as our no. 32 feature. Versteeg was fast, feisty and annoying for opposing teams. Additionally, when he scored in the NHL Stadium Series at Soldier Field back in 2014 he became the first player to score at Soldier Field, the United Center and Wrigley Field.
Top that, Patrick Kane.
However, Versteeg needs to have more of a story than that to truly earn the rights to being our 32 feature.
That said, his musical talents truly were unparalleled to other Chicago Blackhawks leading up to that point.
So barring any more unwarranted rambling about past Chicago Blackhawks, I’d like to introduce you to our player of the day, NHL All-Star John Scott.
Chicago Blackhawks’ John Scott
John Scott came to the Chicago Blackhawks before the 2011-12 season. Coming off a cup win in 2010, the Blackhawks saw many key role players depart because of salary cap constraints.
Key players, as in Adam Burish, Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd.
Scott was a guy who was supposed to help replace some of the physical roles played by guys like Burish and Eager, especially. He largely did just that as his physicality and ability as an enforcer were both keys to Blackhawks teams during his time in Chicago.
For example, there was a game in which Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Deryk Engelland raised his elbow, left his feet and hit Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger in the head.
Kruger never saw it coming and went on to miss games with a concussion.
Kruger didn’t see Engelland coming, however Engelland should’ve seen Scott coming. Watch this clip and see just how fast Scott jumps into the play.
I don’t think John Scott let Engelland get a punch in.
Scott earned himself a reputation as one of the best enforcers in the league all because he wanted to stand up for his teammates. He wanted to fire the guys on the bench up.
John wanted to have their backs.
He recalls his first fight in the AHL as something he’ll never forget. So much so that he wrote about this experience (and so, so much more) in his Players Tribune piece, titled “A Guy Like Me.”
We’re ready to go out onto the ice, and my coach looks around the room. Then he looks right at me, dead in the eyes.
“Scott. Do. Not. Fight. D.J. King.”
I’m like, “Who the h*ll is D.J. King?”
His eyes are bulging now, like, “D.J. King is a billed heavyweight. D.J. King is a freaking animal.”
So what I did was … I fought D.J. King.
And what he did was … he busted me right in the jaw.
At that moment, I realized, Oh, okay. Wow. This is what it feels like to get really hit. But somehow, I was able to keep my feet and kind of win the fight. My teammates went nuts.
And then I realized another thing: Oh, okay. Wow. This feels good. Not my face. That feels bad. But it feels good to make my teammates go nuts.
From that point on, Scott was an enforcer. It wasn’t because that’s who he was as a player (all his life he was a rock-solid stay at home defenseman) however he saw it as a way to move up the ladder.
In fact, he never even saw himself as someone who had a shot at making the NHL. He played college hockey at Michigan Tech University on a scholarship.
By the team he graduated, he had an engineering degree, a wife and an offer to play in the American Hockey League.
Not a bad four years there, John.
Scott promised his wife he’d try it for three years. If he didn’t make it, he’d sign a contract with the real world and take his engineering to an office in Ontario.
In those three years, Scott eventually got his chance and broke into the NHL. He’d spend the next 10 years across seven different NHL organizations.
John made some memories in Chicago, but the story which transpired while with the Arizona Coyotes is one which needs to be told.
John Scott: The All-Star
Back in 2016, the NHL All-Star captains were decided by an online fan vote.
A small number of fans, and then a very big number of fans, voted for enforcer John Scott win the fan vote as a captain.
Though it may have started as a joke, it really wasn’t one. It isn’t as if John Scott won the lottery and was randomly awarded this on pure coincidence. However, in a lot of ways this was how people around the National Hockey League viewed John.
Scott, much like me, felt otherwise:
I’m not some random person off the street, and I didn’t win a golden ticket to “play hockey with the stars.” I won an internet fan vote, sure. And at some point, without question, it was a joke. It might even finish as a joke. But it didn’t start as one. It started with a very small pool, out of a very small pool, out of the very, very smallest pool of hockey players in the world: NHLers. That was the vote. A fan vote, an internet vote — but a vote from among the 700 or so best hockey players in North American professional sports.
And John Scott was one of those 700 best people in the world.
And he didn’t get there by coincidence. On the contrary, he worked hard for years to get there. He skated every day seemingly since he could stand to get there. He played through injuries to get there. He made it through long, cold bus rides. He studied on team busses while teammates laughed and yelled watching Adam Sandler movies.
He endured most things imaginable to get to be one of those 700 players.
“But I’m one of them. And that means a lot to me.
It means a lot to my family.”
So, while this sounds like a feel good story, the NHL found a way to make it far from that.
The NHL All-Star game is one filled with the best talent in the world on full display: dangles, snipes, 100+ mph slap shots and crazy skills competitions.
Put simply, the NHL didn’t think that Scott belonged. They didn’t bother beating around the bush, either.
“At first, when it became clear that I was going to win the All-Star fan vote, I understood the league’s position. They didn’t mince words — This is not a game for you, John — but I understood all the same. Honestly, on some level, I agreed.”
However, Scott worked his whole career to get to where he was and that cannot be understated. Playing in Arizona at the time, he found himself in an incredible situation. The team was supposed to have a dumpster fire of a season, but by some twist of fate they came out fighting and shocked a lot of people around the league. John described the locker room as one full of underdogs.
Of course, he fit in perfectly. Not only did he fit in, he brought value to the team not only because of his ability as an enforcer but more-so by his personality and veteran presence in the locker room.
So, given all of this, what happened next in the John Scott story came to a shock to everyone involved. Retrospectively, knowing what he know about how the NHL operates, it probably shouldn’t have. I’ll let John tell it:
“I see our GM open the door.
He’s not smiling.
“Hey, John, can we talk for a second?”
We head down the hall a few steps, into the stick room of all places, and he shuts the door.
And then he tells me point blank.
“You just got traded.”
Nope. No way.
“You’re s******* me.”
I hear him perfectly the first time, but I need him to say it again.
“We just traded you to Montreal. Yeah.”
My mind is racing a mile a minute. I know exactly what’s happened.
Still, I can’t help myself.
“Are you f****** kidding me?”
Enforcers don’t get traded midseason when their team is winning. If you know the league, you know that it just doesn’t happen.
“I’m not sure what to say, John. This is how it goes. We’re trying to make our team better. We had a chance to get a player, and we took it.”
I’ll keep the rest of the conversation private, because I’m a professional. But you can fill in the blanks. It is, as we say in this business, emotional.
What I saw happen is this: John Scott, an NHL enforcer was winning a fan vote to be an All-Star. This came off not only as a joke to hockey fans, but as a joke to sports fans as a whole. It made the NHL look like they didn’t have rules.
This was apparent when they told him to tell fans to place their votes elsewhere. They told John that the game wasn’t for him.
So, after fans weren’t persuaded by his request, Scott was traded. Not only was he traded, he was traded out of the division in which he was winning the fan vote. Furthermore, the Canadiens (whom he was traded to) immediately sent him down to the AHL.
A successful NHL enforcer was traded midseason for no clear reason. Then, he was sent down to the minors.
Once again, for no clear reason.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie has information which doesn’t quite help the NHL’s case, either.
“Prior to this, John Scott was asked by both the National Hockey League and the Arizona Coyotes to reconsider his decision to accept a spot on the team that was awarded to him by a fan vote,” McKenzie told James Duthie, TSN’s host. “He refused to do that.”
Then, to make matters worse, McKenzie told Duthie that it was Arizona who wanted him in this trade, not the Canadiens.
“I can tell you that the Montreal Canadiens had no interest whatsoever in getting John Scott in this trade. The Arizona Coyotes wanted him to be included. You can draw your own conclusions from that. A lot of people have conspiracy theories. Whatever the case may be, but it was Arizona who wanted him in this trade, not the Montreal Canadiens.”
As McKenzie said, you can feel free to draw your own conclusions from that. That said, there’s a very good portion of fans who don’t think this was all a coincidence at all. Though there’s no clear proof of this, it’s a very curious case that doesn’t quite sit right with me, to say the least.
Nevertheless, John Scott ended up playing in that game. Despite trades. Despite being told he wasn’t made that game. Despite being asked, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”
Well, John answered that pretty clearly.
Who knows. I like to think so. But I know they’ll be there for me — for their big, goofy dad — no matter what. They’ll be there, in the stands, cheering me on — wearing their Scott jerseys, and watching me try my best, have some fun and fulfill a dream I’ve had since I was, well, their age.
Regardless of what happened behind closed doors, Scott played in that game and made memories that will last a lifetime. His time in Chicago was short-lived, however I’ll always remember him for standing up for Marcus Kruger that night in Pittsburgh.
That, and for winning the ALL-Star game MVP, celebrating with his family and tallying a couple of goals in the game as well.
Additionally, if you haven’t read John Scott’s piece for the Players Tribune which a majority of these quotes are pulled from, I encourage you to do so.
Only 32 days until Blackhawks hockey!