NASHVILLE — Hoping to defuse an awkward situation that has hovered over preparations for the All-Star Game, commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that enforcer John Scott, voted by fans into the All-Star Game, is welcome at Sunday's event.
Someone in the NHL offices tried to talk him out of playing, Scott said in a first-person story posted Thursday on the Players' Tribune website. Previous media reports also had said the league had tried to discourage him from participating.
The NHL allowed fans to vote for the captain of each of four division teams as it switches to a 3-on-3 tournament for this year's game. Fans, spurred by an Internet campaign, voted Scott, then with the Coyotes, as captain of the Pacific Division team, but Arizona traded him shortly after that to Montreal, and he is now with the Canadiens' AHL affiliate in Newfoundland.
Bettman said at the All-Star Game media day that he had a nice chat with Scott on Thursday night.
"And he's more than welcome to be here," Bettman said. "We're happy he's here. The fans spoke, and we're happy to reflect their will."
Scott said it was nice to hear that from Bettman.
"I think he was worried about me not feeling welcome here and being uncomfortable," Scott, 33, said. "He just said, 'We are happy you are here. We wanted you to be here, and just go have fun, and our support is behind you.' "
Panthers star Jaromir Jagr said the pressure from the league wasn't fair to Scott, who has five career goals, played for six teams over the years and never averaged more than 10 minutes of ice time during a season.
"He didn't do anything wrong. … I think he's going to be the most popular player on the ice," Jagr said, then added tongue in cheek, "I just hope he doesn't slash anybody."
Other players also supported Scott. Flyers forward Claude Giroux said he wanted a Scott-signed stick. Panthers G Roberto Luongo said he wanted Scott to participate in every event at today's skills competition.
"I'm nervous to be around these superstars," Scott said. "It's nice to hear that they are behind me."
The fans still are, too. Scott All-Star jerseys are among the hottest items in Nashville.
"I wanted to get one, but I heard they were sold out," Scott said. "I have to talk to somebody."
Jagr still doesn't want to be here: When fan voting for the All-Star Game began, Jagr issued a Twitter plea that fans not vote for him because he is too old and wanted to spend the time resting. Fans voted him captain of the Atlantic Division team anyway, and Jagr has grudgingly shown up for his 10th All-Star Game, and his first since 2004.
"I have to be here," he said. "I was ordered in. I don't want to be suspended. I don't want to miss any games."
NHL rules call for players selected as All-Stars to sit out one regular-season game if they skip the event.
Jagr insisted he wasn't complaining and that he appreciates fans' desire to see him, but he said that two weeks shy of his 44th birthday he wanted to be working out in Florida to build strength for the stretch run.
Stamkos' and Bishop's skills: Lightning forward Steven Stamkos will participate in the hardest shot, relay and shootout in tonight's skills competition (7, NBCSN). G Ben Bishop will be part of the relay.