John Scott enjoying retirement in the relative quiet of being an everyday dad to his four daughters

ByCraig Custance via ESPN logo
Friday, January 20, 2017

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- At first, he thought the person approaching might be giving him a parking ticket. The black Honda SUV John Scott won as the MVP of last year's All-Star Game was sitting at a meter that might or might not have expired.

But it was just a sweet senior citizen finding a patch on the road to walk that wasn't covered in ice.

There was a brief conversation between Scott and the woman when she realized she recognized him. He was, after all, one of the biggest stories in hockey last season. NHL fans stuffed the ballots to get him into the All-Star Game, a campaign that resulted in one of the last true fighters in the game joining the league's superstars in Nashville, where he added the cherry on top by winning the MVP honors. They're making a movie about it. There's already a book.

It was a great story, so that's where you think this exchange with the woman is headed when she says he looks familiar. It's not.

"Don't you work in the hospital?" she asked Scott as he unlocks his door after grabbing three purple eggplants at a local grocery store.

He smiles. No. No, he doesn't.

"You look just like someone who does," she said. And with that, she's on her way. Scott smiles, climbs into his car and heads home.

He couldn't be more regular these days if he tried.

One year after becoming the biggest story in hockey, where fans and pundits argued over whether he should be allowed to play in the All-Star Game -- and resulted in the so-called John Scott Rule, which disqualifies AHL or injured players from getting voted in -- Scott is now living quietly in his beautiful home five minutes from downtown Traverse City, Michigan.

It's a home so close to a lake that he has taken his oldest daughter, Eva, to preschool in a canoe. (He'd skate her over in the winter if the ice would stay frozen long enough.)

On a Wednesday morning in January, with his twin daughters sleeping, his oldest at school and his 3-year-old daughter, Gabriella, quietly working on a Frozen puzzle, there are only a few reminders of how chaotic his life was one year ago. NBC had shown up the previous day with cameras and microphones for a feature on him. He's getting more interview requests now, and another media company is flying him out to Los Angeles to be a part of the upcoming All-Star weekend.

But mostly it's quiet.

At least from a celebrity spotlight point of view. It's never really quiet when there are 11-month-old twins with two older sisters.

What's his day like now?

"This!" he said, tidying the kitchen before helping Gabriella with the challenging outer edges of the puzzle. "Just taking care of the kids and being a regular Joe Schmo. We have a routine. It's nice to get down to a routine and do the normal stuff that normal guys do."

He looks over at his wife, Danielle, who is making a fantastic cup of coffee. The wife of a hockey player isn't an easy one. It gets harder when you double your kid total in one day, like she did after giving birth to twins Estelle and Sophia last February. It's even harder when your husband moves around the league as much as Scott did. It means Eva was born in Chicago, Gabriella was born in Buffalo and Danielle was fully prepared for the twins to be born on a layover home from the All-Star Game in Nashville. Instead, they were born a few days later in Michigan.

The life is a whirlwind, one that became even crazier last season for this family. So, they're cherishing the quiet. They're cherishing the time together. Scott thinks the controversy surrounding the All-Star vote might have cost him a year or two off his NHL career, but he wouldn't trade it for anything. Even if he wasn't necessarily enjoying it at this point last season.

"I like to just shelter and not talk about my feelings and not go too deep into it," Scott said. "The whole time, I was like, 'It was funny,' but I hated the whole -- I was upset at the whole process. About halfway through, I accepted it a little bit more."

Halfway through, he stopped listening to the negativity.

He started listening to the encouragement of former teammates and players who told him to embrace the opportunity. His wife offered perhaps the wisest bit of counsel.

"She said, 'The people spewing negative comments, they don't want the best for you. All these people saying negative things, they don't really care about you. You should focus on the people saying the positive things. They want the best for you. That's who you listen to,'" he said.

That's what he did.

In return, he got the memory of a lifetime. He scored two goals to win the MVP honors. He was carried off the ice by former San Jose Sharks teammates Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski, a moment he has autographed and framed in his basement.

It's only in that basement where you get the idea you're in the house of a former NHL All-Star. Upstairs is a house occupied by four little girls, a mash-up of furniture, baby gates, princess castles, Hello Kitty guitars and all the other fun things that make up a house featuring four girls under five.

The basement has the relics of the hockey career. There's a gold guitar on the wall, given to all the players who played in the All-Star Game in Nashville. There is hockey player folk art painted by fans and sent to Scott. He has pictures of teammates and former teams -- like all retired hockey players, those are the guys he misses most.

The jersey he wore in the All-Star Game is folded with a pile of other hockey jerseys on a shelf in a spare room. Scott is more excited about the jerseys he collected from other players during his career. Hanging in the closest is one from Larry Robinson and another from Joe Thornton. Somewhere, Scott has one from Alex Ovechkin. His newest addition is a signed Wayne Gretzky jersey.

He's proud to share those -- just like any hockey fan whose only on-ice action comes during a men's league. And that's exactly who he's playing with these days. He's in Traverse City men's league playing for two teams -- the Jolly Pumpkin and Fabulous Faces.

"It's good hockey," Scott said. "You'd think my team would win every game, but no, we're in second. We don't have enough players, that's the thing."

It's a way to stay in the game, a game that has given him this rare gift of anonymity mixed with just enough celebrity that he can show up in Toronto at an event to sign autographs and make special appearances.

"It'll be me, Eric Lindros, Ray Bourque and Cito Gaston -- it's kind of like, 'Someone doesn't fit in there and it's me,'" Scott said, laughing. "Then when I go up there, everyone wants to talk to me. It's very strange still."

Danielle views it all as a gift.

Scott isn't one to overthink things. He's just dealing with it as it's happening. That's how he has always been. She's the one looking at the bigger picture.

"I don't believe in coincidences," she said. "I think everything happens for a reason."

Later that afternoon, the twins are up from their nap. Eva is done with school and the entire family is in the corner booth of a local restaurant, eating lunch together with John, who's sharing a story about one of his NHL stops. He and Danielle each have one hand on the arm of a twin girl, without even thinking about it, comforting them while they eat.

It's at that moment you realize Danielle is exactly right.

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