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John Scott and the Most Unlikely All-Stars in NHL History

Before John Scott, there was Chris Nilan and a long list of players who were probably just as surprised as anyone to learn they were named to an All-Star Game.
Photo by Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.

Assuming John Scott laces the skates and his wife doesn't go into labour between the publication of this post and puck drop in Nashville on Sunday, he will become arguably the most unlikely and least-deserving All-Star in NHL history. Heck, he's not even in the NHL right now. He's not good at hockey. He's a danger to others, if we're being honest.


After an elbow to the head of Boston's Loui Eriksson in 2013, NBC analyst and former New York Islanders coach/general manager Mike Milbury said of Scott, "He doesn't belong in the league, it's an embarrassment."

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With zero goals, one assist and 25 penalty minutes in 11 games, there's no denying Scott is by far the most untalented All-Star in the event. His role is to punch people in the face, a role he's done quite well over the years, and there is very little need to punch people in the face during All-Star weekend.

During the 80-plus years of NHL All-Star Games, though, there have been plenty of unlikely All-Stars—not necessarily undeserving All-Stars, but guys that make you think, "Wow, I can't believe that guy got to play in the game."

Here are eight players who were probably just as surprised as anyone to learn they were named to an All-Star Game in a given year.

8) Eddie Shore, Boston Bruins, 1934—The defenceman won the Hart Trophy four times and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947. The idea that someone of Shore's skill and caliber playing in an All-Star Game isn't unlikely until you consider the 1934 game itself.

The NHL considers its first All-Star Game to have taken place in 1947 but the Ace Bailey Benefit Game in 1934 was the first to feature the league's best players on one sheet of ice. A group of All-Stars played the Toronto Maple Leafs in a charity game to raise money for Bailey, who had his career ended by a blind-side hit in 1933.


Who delivered that hit? Why, Shore, of course.

Can you imagine that happening today? "Hi, and welcome to the Steve Moore Charity Spectacular. And now, please welcome Todd Bertuzzi and the rest of the All-Stars to the ice!"

Sure, it's odd that Scott is a 2016 All-Star, but at least he hasn't ended anyone's career this season. Yet.

7) Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues, 2015—The first half Elliott's season was sort of All-Star worthy. He led the league with a 1.86 GAA and was fourth with a .930 save percentage but had played just 22 games while sharing time with Jake Allen (and Martin Brodeur).

Elliott wasn't voted to the game by fans and wasn't selected as one of the six goaltenders on the initial roster. All-Stars Jimmy Howard and Pekka Rinne were felled by injuries, and Marc-Andre Fleury and Jaroslav Halak were named as the replacements.

Three days before the game in Columbus, however, Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky suffered a lower-body injury, which led to Elliott getting a call. While he was on a Caribbean island. With his family. Enjoying the break.

No one wanted Brian Elliott at the 2015 All-Star Game. But he made it in the end. —Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Elliott was passed over eight times and despite just a 22-game workload, was finally named to the All-Star Game. He could have spent a few days on a beach and ignored the phone call but he told Yahoo Sports, "You might like the beach at the time. But 20 years later, looking back on everything, you don't want to say no to something like this."


6) Al Smith, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1968—Smith wasn't technically an All-Star; one of the eight million All-Star Game formats over the years once included a time when the defending Stanley Cup champions would play the best remaining players, and even crazier, the Maple Leafs were the defending champions that year (it feels weird typing that).

Hall of Famer Johnny Bower, the regular Leafs goaltender and future Hall of Famer, was unable to play due to injury. That led to Smith, who was in the minors at the time, playing and stopping 13 of 14 shots in relief of Bruce Gamble in Toronto's 4-3 win.

Adding to the unlikeliness—Smith quit hockey two years earlier to work for a hospital supply company. He went on to play 233 NHL games during a 10-season career but never returned to the All-Star Game, as this was the final time the NHL used the defending champs vs. All-Stars format.

5) Gordie Howe, Hartford Whalers, 1980—What's unlikely about arguably the best player in hockey history being an All-Star?

Oh, I don't know. How about the fact that Howe was 51 years old at the time?

Was Howe at the game almost strictly on ceremony? You bet. He had 15 goals and 41 points in 80 games during the 1979-80 season but oh yeah he did that AT THE AGE OF 51!!! Heck, Howe even had an assist in the All-Star Game. At 51!

Yes, this happens in all sports. Kobe Bryant will be an NBA All-Star this year. But the fact that Howe was still kicking around at 51 just so he could have a chance at being in an All-Star Game is crazy. Howe was the same age as Keanu Reeves, Eddie Vedder and Sandra Bullock are today when he went to an All-Star Game and picked up a point.


4) John Garrett, Vancouver Canucks, 1983—Everything about Garrett's inclusion in the 1983 game was unlikely.

He was the Canucks' lone representative and only got the nod because starting goaltender Richard Brodeur suffered an injury and someone from Vancouver needed to be there. In 207 career NHL games, Garrett had a 4.27 GAA and .866 save percentage, which isn't anywhere near All-Star level no matter the era.

But here's the most unlikely thing—Garrett got the win. He stopped 15 of 16 shots and was voted the game's MVP… until Wayne Gretzky scored four times in the final 10 minutes, resulting in a re-vote that gave Gretzky the MVP honors and the car that would have gone to Garrett.

Garrett told the Canucks' website about the final 10 minutes: "My friend Lanny McDonald was on our team and he came back during a stoppage in play and said, 'Know what, Cheech? You are going to win the car.' Next shift, Gretzky comes out and scores a goal. Two minutes later, 99 is out there again and scores on Pelle Lindbergh again. Lanny comes back and tells me I have lost a tire. Gretzky's next shift, he has his hat trick and I have no chance. He went on to score one more and he drove away my Firebird and I crawled back into my Micra. At least I got the win."

3) Peter Sidorkiewicz, Ottawa Senators, 1993—If there's one thing that results in unlikely All-Stars, it's expansion seasons. The Senators joined the league in 1992-93, had to send someone to the All-Star Game and that's how this happened.


For the season, Sidorkiewicz went 8-46-3 with a 4.43 GAA and .856 save percentage. Even sadder, he was slightly worse before the All-Star break, going 4-32-3 with a 4.40/.850.

Of course, since hockey never makes sense, Sidorkiewicz got the win for the Wales Conference.

2) Espen Knutsen, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2002—Everything about Knutsen's brief NHL career was unlikely. The 10th-round pick was named to the 2002 World team as a replacement for the Stars' Jere Lehtinen and was the mandatory Blue Jackets representative. He had just 11 goals and 42 points in 77 games that season, and eight goals in 50 games before the break.

One month later, Knutsen was involved in an incident that changed the lives of many people. It was his deflected shot that struck and killed a 13-year-old girl in the stands in Columbus, which resulted in the NHL installing the protective netting that now exists in every arena. Knutsen was out of the NHL two years later.

In 2010, a guilt-ridden Knutsen finally met with the family of Brittanie Cecil. The Columbus Dispatch wrote a story about the meeting that's worth reading.

1) Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators, 2016—If there's anyone that should be thankful for the attention Scott is getting this year it's Rinne, whose inclusion in the All-Star Game will baffle historians thousands of years from now.

Um, why is Rinne an All-Star? Oh, right, because he plays for the All-Star Game's host city! —Photo by Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

As of Wednesday, he ranks 33rd of 38 in save percentage (.904) among goaltenders to make at least 20 appearances. The other goalies on this list were chosen based on circumstance or injury—Rinne was picked because Nashville is hosting the event. But it's not as though the Predators don't have any representation, as Shea Weber and Roman Josi are All-Stars. There are nine Central Division goaltenders to start at least 20 games and Rinne ranks last among them.


It's tough to listen to anyone at the NHL get mad about Scott's inclusion when the league was the one to pick Rinne.

Bonus Pick

Chris Nilan, Boston Bruins, 1991—Before John Scott, there was Chris Nilan.

Nilan had 11 seasons with at least 200 penalty minutes and in 1990-91, he had 277 penalty minutes in 41 games. There was a time when Nilan was a player—he had 56 goals over three seasons with the Montreal Canadiens in the mid-1980s—but he was a pure goon when he was selected as an All-Star.

The same way fans soiled the sanctity of the 2016 All-Star Game by voting for Scott, they did the same thing with Nilan in 1991. Allowing uninformed fans to stuff the ballot box with votes for a sideshow player only diminishes the… what's that? Fans didn't vote for Nilan? So who decided Nilan should be an All-Star?

Oh, right, it was Milbury.

This was an era when the coaches of the previous season's Stanley Cup finalists picked the team and Milbury felt a one-dimensional enforcer deserved to be recognized. People were so pissed off by such a silly decision that steps were taken to change the selection process, allowing for a committee to pick the team beginning the following season.

Can you imagine something that silly happening again 25 years later to cause the NHL to change how All-Stars are chosen?

Nilan is a bonus pick—he never participated in the event after snapping his ankle in the days leading up to the game. If that happened to Scott between now and this weekend, most of the world would assume it was an NHL-arranged hit or a conspiracy involving Gary Bettman somehow weakening Scott's bone density over the past month.

If history has taught us anything, 25 years from now, everyone will be mad that our robot overlords chose a robot to play in the game. And somehow, Milbury will be involved in that, too.