The date was Nov. 23, 2002, and the Hankinson clan was celebrating the birthday of Ben’s brother, Peter. The Gophers were playing Michigan Tech, and Peter told Ben that analyst Glen Sonmor kept talking about this kid on the Huskies that was 6-7.
Hankinson, today a top agent in the sport, walked over to the TV, watched John Scott play 10 seconds of one shift, got in his car and raced to Mariucci Arena. He got there late in the third period, acted like he had been there the whole game and began recruiting the giant to be his adviser.
Six weeks later in Mankato, Hankinson asked Scott, “How tall are you? He goes, ‘6-7.’ I said, ‘You look bigger.’ He goes, “Well, I’m about 6-8.’ I go, ‘Exactly how tall are you?’ He goes, ‘6-8 and a bit.’ I go, ‘What’s a bit?’ He goes, ‘Just under 6-9.’ I said, ‘How much do you weigh?’ He goes, ‘255.’ I said, ‘You’re listed as 6-7, 230. You should be listed as 6-9, 260.’ ”
“He goes, ‘There’s such a thing as too big.’ I said, ‘Not anymore.’ ”
And that’s how the career of an eventual undrafted NHL enforcer began. Four years later, Scott signed an AHL deal with the Wild ($45,000 in Houston with a $5,000 signing bonus), one that became a two-year NHL deal worth $475,000 per year a few months later. Little did either envision that 12½ years after the initial meeting in Dinkytown, Scott’s helmet would head to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The stars are the main event at the All-Star Game. Last weekend, the former Wild bruiser was the biggest star in Nashville. In what started as a joke to vote in one of the league’s least star-studded guys, Scott scored two goals and was named the unlikely yet legit MVP after captaining the Pacific Division to victory.
Scott is a chill, intelligent, very funny guy, so it’s no shock he became the life of the party in Music City. Wearing flip-flops and shorts during interview sessions, he took the high road when asked about the dubious trade that sent him from Arizona to Montreal and then instantly to the minors, a transaction that could have technically made him ineligible for the game.
He play-fought Patrick Kane after “finishing” his check and stealing the puck for a breakaway. And finally, Scott accepted a $1 million check for his team from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, then was hoisted off the ice by former Wild and Sharks teammate Brent Burns and others.
“It really couldn’t have worked out any better for the NHL and everyone involved,” Hankinson said. “It was a process. There were some great days and some dark days in there, but John weathered it. I don’t know how he handled it so well, but that’s why it ended up being such a great story.”
This is a guy who after every season calls Hankinson and says, “This is it. I know my career is over,” … until Hankinson ultimately calls and says, “OK, I got you a deal … and I can hear him jumping up and down.”
Scott’s back in the AHL playing for St. John’s, although that’s on hold because his wife just gave birth to twin girls in Michigan. With enforcers becoming extinct, this time Scott’s hockey career might actually end after this season.
If so, for one weekend, Scott was the toast of the NHL. Hollywood has called Hankinson and his agency, Octagon, for a movie deal, and there’s a potential book deal “and everything in between,” Hankinson said.
“We haven’t locked into anything yet, but it’s definitely been a full-time job sorting through everything,” Hankinson said. “Everybody wants a piece of him.”
“I’ll tell you a great story,” Hankinson said, howling. “After the skills competition, I was walking down the street with [client] Dustin Byfuglien and John Scott. Downtown Nashville at midnight, everybody that walked by said, ‘Oh my God, that’s John Scott!’ It was just hilarious.
“I’ve heard a million times, ‘There’s Buff.’ Never have I heard, ‘Oh my God, that was John Scott!’ ”
NHL villain to butt of a joke to the unlikeliest of All-Star stars. That is a great story.