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14 Apr 2016 | Chaplain David M. Todd; CDR, CHC, USN Marine Corps Base Quantico

As the 2015-16 National Hockey League (NHL) regular season winds down, one of the best stories out of the season has to be the Cinderella story of John Scott, a journeyman enforcer who is a throwback to the good old days of Ted Green, Barclay Plager, Dave “the Hammer” Schultz and Clark Gilles. Like other professional sports leagues, the annual NHL All Star Game had become a meaningless, lowly-regarded game with little enthusiasm. Seeking to spice it up, the NHL introduced a “three on three” competition in a four team round robin tournament with the fans choosing the “all stars” as well as the captains for each team.

Ridiculing the NHL’s attempt to make the game more relevant, a hockey blogger proposed fans should write in John Scott, who had all of five goals in parts of seven seasons (along with 542 penalty minutes) then playing with the Arizona Coyotes as the captain for the West team. The gag quickly took off and soon Scott was soaring to the top of the All Star race. Hockey purists and NHL executives were horrified that a “goon” would stain the All Star name and attempted to arrest his candidacy.

At first, Scott laughed off the write-in attempt, but his teammates encouraged him to play if selected. When he made his intention to play known, the NHL stepped up their attempt to keep him from the game. Arizona traded him to the Montreal Canadiens, an Eastern Conference team who sent him down to the minors. Suddenly, John Scott went from a gag to a real person — a college graduate in mechanical engineering with two young daughters and a wife near delivery with twins who had been exiled from Phoenix to Nova Scotia. In an instant, both the fans eager to stick it to the establishment and the establishment seeking to save face realized they had treated Scott as an object instead of a real human being.

One of our greatest struggles is not to see others as means to an end, but as an end in and of themselves. Kant called it a “categorical imperative,” but it is more commonly known as the “Golden Rule.” Treat others as you would like to be treated. Easily stated, but extremely difficult to live out. There are no conditions attached: no “only if they treat you likewise first,” or “only if you are in the mood” or “only if it benefits you.” It is a demand to act right even when all others act wrongly.

Nowhere is this more challenging than in leadership, where one seeks to influence others toward a certain goal. The easy path is to relate to others as means to reach that goal; the hard right is to know those whom you lead and look out for their welfare. While more costly in terms of time and self, it is precisely the time, effort and selflessness that enables you to know how each uniquely fits into the pursuit of the goal.

Turns out, John Scott was a natural leader, well-loved by his fellow professional hockey players and former teammates. Out of all the fans and NHL execs, those who knew him best were the ones who also knew his true value and worth. He led the West team to victory in the most highly acclaimed All Star game in years and, with two goals and was voted in by fans and players as All Star MVP. Who is your John Scott?