The NHL All Star Game is a long and storied tradition the league that dates back to 1947 and has origins in a 1933 benefit game for Ace Bailey and his family following a career ending injury to Bailey mid-season. Since then, the game has morphed from a charity event into a celebration of the league and some of its best players. The All Star Team selections have changed over the years often in reaction to something that happened in the league. Most recently, the league restricted the fan vote selections after the fans sent John Scott to the 2016 All Star Game as a combination of a middle finger to league and a celebration of John Scott as a person and as the archetypal enforcer that is slowly being pushed out the game.
The origins of the John Scott selection started as the intention to send the worst player in the league to annoy the league. Even after the movement changed and saw it as a fun change of pace to send the highly charismatic Scott to the game, many critics railed against how Scott may have been the worst player to play in an All Star Game. So that got me wondering: Is John Scott actually the worst player to play in an All Star Game?
It ends up that the history of the All Star Game format is key to answering this question. The first three All Star Games were organized as benefits following Bailey’s career ending injury in 1933, Howie Morenz’s death in 1937, and Babe Siebert’s death in 1939. Each pitted either the Toronto Maple Leafs or a combined Montreal Canadiens-Maroons squad against the league’s best players from other teams.
The All Star Game did not become an official annual tradition until the 1947-48 season. From 1947 to 1969 (except for the 1952 game), the All Star Game consisted of the previous season’s Stanley Cup champion facing off against the best of the rest in the league. After that point, the game assumed a similar format to the one we know today: Conference versus conference.
It ends up that there have been a few players to make the All Star Game by riding the coattails of a championship winning team. None of these guys are household names, but many have some significant accolades on their resume. I have compiled a group of ten players who have played in an All Star Game and I think are arguably worse than John Scott. However, the vast majority of them have been incredibly fascinating and fun in their own rights, just as Scott was during his time in the spotlight.
10. Stan Smrke
Smrke was the first Yugoslavian player in the NHL. He landed himself on the Montreal Canadiens roster just in time to play in the 1957 All Star Game. Smrke scored a goal in that ASG, which marked the only time he would score a goal on NHL competition in 10 career games. Despite not sticking in the NHL, Smrke was a stand out player in the Quebec Hockey League and American Hockey League (AHL) with Chicotoumi and Rochester, respectively. He was inducted into the Rochester Americans Hall of Fame in 1988.
9. Frank Mathers
Mathers played his first NHL game just days after playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1948 All Star Game. He would play only 23 games for the Maple Leafs over the next four seasons. Despite this, Mathers was a prolific star in the AHL with the Pittsburgh Hornets and Hershey Bears. Over a 14 year career, he amassed 340 assists and 407 points to secure the assist and point leads among defensemen when he retired. After retiring, Mathers spent 35 years in the Hershey Bears’ front office. He has been awarded the Lester Patrick Trophey for his lifelong commitment to hockey and sits in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder and the AHL Hall of Fame as a player and builder.
8. Eddie Mazur
Mazur was a member of the 1953 Stanley Cup winning Canadiens and played in the 1953-54 All Star Game with his squad. Mazur would play a total of 107 games and score 28 points as a defenseman and left wing before starting a long AHL career. Mazur is perhaps best known for having scored the most playoff goals before playing a single regular season game prior to Chris Krieder’s five goals in the 2012 playoffs. Mazur had scored four goals in 14 career playoff games across three postseasons before ever playing a single regular season game.
7. Keith Allen
Allen played 5 of the Red Wing’s 12 playoff games during their 1954 Stanley Cup win and started off the next season with the Wings in the 1954 All Star Game. However, after only 33 career games he was out of the league. Allen played a lengthy AHL career as a dependable defenseman before taking a management position in hockey. Hebecame the general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1969 and constructed the Broadstreet Bullies. He led the Flyers to two championships in 1974 and 1975 as “Keith the Thief”, earning himself a ticket into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder.
6. Norm Corcoran
Corcoran played the part of a prototypical tweener in his career. He was a good AHL player who would come up to the NHL for a few games at a time before being sent down. In the summer of 1955, he was sent from Boston to Detroit as part of a nine person trade that sent Terry Sawchuk to Boston. Because Detroit had won the 1955 Stanley Cup, Corcoran was part of the 1955 All Star Game. After just two games, Detroit waived him and he was picked up by Chicago. Twenty-three games with Chicago that year was the last taste he got of the NHL. In total, he potted 1 goal and 3 assists in 33 career NHL game as a center.
5. Lorne Davis
Davis was a man who needed two hands for his Stanley Cup rings despite his playing career. He was a right winger who played a total of 97 NHL games over 6 seasons with only 8 goals, 12 assists, and 20 points to show for it. His only games in the 1952-53 were 7 playoff games with the Canadiens, where he acquired his first ring. He played in the NHL All Star Game at the start of the 1953-54 season. After a minor league career that had him out of the AHL before he was 30, he became an amateur scout. He scouted for the Edmonton Oilers in each of the five seasons they won the Stanley Cup, giving him a total of 6 rings.
4. Bob Dawes
Dawes was a flexible player who could play both center and defenseman, albeit neither particularly well. He played 9 games with the 1948-49 Maple Leafs playoff run, which ended with a Stanley Cup win. He played in the 1949-50 All Star Game but didn’t finish the season with the Leafs. His NHL career concluded with 9 points in 32 games and he played 14 years in the minor and senior leagues before hanging up his skates.
3. Les Costello
Costello is perhaps the most intriguing entry on the list. Costello’s inaugural NHL season was on the 1948 Stanley Cup champion Leafs and played on their 1948-49 All Star Game squad. He only played one more NHL game after that, ending up with 5 points in 15 games. In 1950 Costello quit professional hockey to join a seminary. In 1963, he formed a squad of hockey playing priests called the Flying Fathers and toured with them to raise money for charity. He played with the Flying Fathers for 39 years even despite losing three toes to frostbite during a camping trip in 1979. He ultimately died in 2002 after taking a shot to the head and falling head first into the ice during a Flying Fathers game. The next day he slipped into a coma and died later that week at 74 years old.
2. Garry Bauman
Bauman is our only goalie to make the list. He appeared in the 1966-67 All Star Game for the Canadiens alongside Charlie Hodge. Together, the two posted the only shutout in the history of the game. That would be the only shutout of his NHL career. Bauman played only two games for the Canadiens before being selected in the expansion draft by the Minnesota North Stars, where he would play another 33 lackluster games over two years. Bauman’s final year in the NHL ended after he allowed 4.34 goals per game over 7 games. Bauman even struggled to find work in the AHL and was done with the sport only three years after leaving the NHL.
1. John MacMillan
McMillan tops the list for a combination of reasons: First, he’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time All Star Game participant with the Maple Leafs. Secondly, he was a right winger who played 104 games over 5 seasons and contributed only 15 points and 32 PIMs. Finally, he didn’t even look particularly good in the minor leagues after his NHL career ended. MacMillan has cup rings from 1962 and 1963 and All Star Game appearances in each of the seasons following those wins. Personally, I have to call him the worst player to ever play in an NHL All Star Game simply because he honestly belongs in the top two spots on this list.