MONTREAL – If it ends up as his final NHL game, John Scott said there is no better place for it than the Bell Centre.
The six-foot-eight, low-scoring tough guy, who was the talk of the NHL all-star game after being playfully voted in by fans, was set to play his first – and probably only – game for the Montreal Canadiens against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
The affable 33-year-old is to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is not sure to be signed in a league that has been leaning away from fighting and enforcers.
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“The way the league has gone, all the tough guys got sent down,” Scott said Tuesday.
“I was fully expecting not to come back up, so to get this chance, even though it’s just a one-game thing, is special for me and my family. If this is my last game, it’s pretty cool to play in the Bell Centre with a Canadiens jersey on.”
Scott said Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin did him a favour by calling him up from St. John’s of the American Hockey League.
The Canadiens acquired him and defenceman Victor Bartley from the Arizona Coyotes under mysterious circumstances on Jan. 15 for rearguard Jarred Tinordi and forward prospect Stefan Fournier.
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When the trade was made, a joke campaign by fans had Scott as the leading vote-getter for the Jan. 31 all-star game in Nashville, which reportedly did not sit well with the league.
The St. Catharines, Ont. product said a league official even asked him to withdraw, which he refused.
The trade to Montreal put his eligibility to play in the game in doubt, especially since the Canadiens had assigned him to St. John’s.
But the NHL relented and Scott not only captained the Pacific Division to victory in the three-on-three all-star tournament, but scored two goals, was hoisted on his teammates shoulders and named the game MVP to the delight of the fans. He also won the SUV that went with it.
Added to the turmoil was that his wife Danielle gave birth to twin daughters five days later.
What exactly went down with the trade remains cloudy.
Bergevin only said at the time: “I had to make that trade. I have a reason that I can’t really tell you why, but if I could, you would probably understand.”
That Tinordi then failed a doping test and was suspended for 20 games made it even murkier.
Scott doesn’t want to go into details about it.
“It’s amazing the stuff I had to go through but we got through it and here we are,” he said.
“It was a good, hard year. You’re tested and you either overcome it or shut it down. So it was a good year. I think I got rewarded nicely for it.”
The journeyman left winger who has five goals and 542 penalty minutes in 285 career NHL games had suddenly become the talk of the hockey world.
There are even plans for a movie about his experiences.
“Once I go home, I’ll Skype my family and that puts it all into perspective, where I’m not famous whatsoever,” he said.
“It’s nice to have a family to ground me.”
In Montreal, he renewed acquaintances with at least six teammates from St. John’s filling in for injured Canadiens.
One of them, defenceman Darren Dietz, said it was a shock when Scott joined the IceCaps.
“It was really cool to have him because we got to meet John Scott the person,” said Dietz.
“He was ‘that famous guy’ to us too, right? All we knew was what we’d seen in the media, so it was nice to get a chance to get to know him. He was a lot of fun.”