Until this winter, John Scott was a professional hockey player best known for his size (6-foot-8, 260 pounds) and his fists. In eight NHL seasons, he has played with more teams (six) than he has scored goals (five).

All of which makes Scott, 33, a strange selection as a captain at the NHL All-Star Classic this weekend in Nashville, Tennessee. The other three captains are Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin, all likely Hall of Famers.

Scott shook his head and laughed at the absurdity of his situation after a workout Tuesday at Cross Insurance Arena with his new team, the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League.

“Me, Jagr, Kane and Ovechkin,” he said. “Obviously, right?”

How Scott wound up in Portland this week, preparing to play Wednesday night against the Pirates, is a crazy tale that began as a joke but demonstrates the power of social media.

His unlikely rise to prominence began in November when the NHL announced a new format for its All-Star Game – with just three skaters on the ice for each team instead of the usual five. The format would allow for wide-open play that puts a premium on skating and passing skills. Through Internet voting, fans would select one player from each of the league’s four divisions, with the NHL naming the rest of the All-Stars.

That led some folks to wonder who would be the most awkward candidate to compete in a 3-on-3 tournament with the best players on the planet. How about a lumbering journeyman with 542 penalty minutes in 285 career games?

Thus, #VoteJohnScott was born. Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports and Toronto blogger Steve Dangle helped start the campaign, not unlike stuffing the ballot box for the class clown to become prom king. A Reddit page (OperationJohnScott) hopped on board.

A Twitter account (@JScottAllStar) pushed the idea and encouraged fans to vote the maximum 10 times daily for Scott once balloting opened Dec. 1. It took only two days for him to rise to the top of the leaderboard.

At first, Scott laughed it off. He got the joke. He advised fans to vote for more deserving teammates.

“I’m not the normal All-Star,” he said. “Obviously, the fans didn’t listen to me. They kept voting for me, so it didn’t work.”

That the league viewed Scott’s rise as something of an embarrassment only fueled Internet interest. Tweeted an observer named Totally Offside: “It’s beautiful that fans of different hockey teams can put aside their differences and come together to troll the NHL.”

John Scott brawls with an opposing player in 2009, when Scott was a member of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. On his captaincy this year, Scott said: “I’m not the normal All-Star.”

John Scott brawls with an opposing player in 2009, when Scott was a member of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. On his captaincy this year, Scott said: “I’m not the normal All-Star.” 2009 Associated Press file

SUPPORT FROM OTHER ENFORCERS

Momentum kept building throughout December, even as his team at the time – the Arizona Coyotes – placed Scott on waivers for the third time this season. On Jan. 2, the league announced results of the voting. Scott was in as the Pacific Division captain.

“At first, I didn’t want people to vote for me because it started off as a joke,” Scott said. “Then, I think, as it gained steam, everyone started to kind of see it a different way: This could be interesting. Like, he’s done a lot for the game and maybe he’s earned it. Maybe give the tough guys their time in the spotlight.”

It helped that fellow players, particularly those who had scratched out careers because of their ability to stand up for teammates, supported Scott. He said he heard from retired NHL enforcers such as Tie Domi, Tony Twist, Kelly Chase and Jody Shelley.

“It was nice to get that vote of confidence from guys who’ve been around,” Scott said. “Once I knew they were OK with it, I just figured, ‘Why not?’ ”

Of course, there were plenty of naysayers who ridiculed Scott’s abilities. They resurrected an epic rant by NESN analyst Mike Milbury – “This guy is a goon” – after Scott, then with Buffalo, leveled unsuspecting Bruins forward Loui Eriksson.

Of course, like most hockey enforcers, Scott always has been very popular among teammates. He’s a smart guy (a mechanical engineering degree from Michigan Tech) with humility and a self-deprecating sense of humor.

“I’ve never played with him,” said Pirates center Rob Schremp, “but all I hear is positive things about John Scott and how he’s the best teammate. So in that sense, I think a lot of guys are pulling for him.”

When Arizona abruptly traded Scott to Montreal on Jan. 15, the Canadiens immediately sent him to their minor league club in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Conspiracy theorists suspected retribution. Some wondered if the demotion rendered him ineligible for the NHL All-Star Game.

Suddenly, the joke didn’t seem so funny for a guy whose wife is due with twins in early February. The Scotts already have 2- and 4-year-old daughters.

“I have no idea what they said to each other, Arizona and the NHL,” Scott said. “I’m sure they had conversations. I know the NHL at first wasn’t too excited about me going to the game. I had conversations with them. But once I said I was going, they were … supportive. And that was that.”

John Scott, who is 6-foot-8, towers over his teammates at practice. He has a grand total of five career goals in the NHL and has racked up 542 penalty minutes while earning a reputation for fighting.

John Scott, who is 6-foot-8, towers over his teammates at practice. He has a grand total of five career goals in the NHL and has racked up 542 penalty minutes while earning a reputation for fighting.

FAMILY IN STANDS, READY FOR FUN

A day or two before the trade, Scott had black T-shirts made up for his Arizona teammates that read “Thanks For Believing In Me” with his photo and “Love Always, The Captain.” He did something similar for San Jose teammates to celebrate one of his infrequent goals.

“I’m pulling for him and I don’t even know him,” said Schremp, the Pirates center. “I think people need to look a little deeper. That’s a cool experience for John Scott to get a chance to be on the ice with all those players.”

An All-Star skills competition involving six different events will be held Saturday. Although St. John’s plays again Friday night in Portland, Scott will fly to Nashville on Thursday. He said he plans to bring his IceCaps jersey, but believes the NHL will have him wear the Coyotes’ colors. Arizona has no other representative.

On Sunday, Scott’s Pacific Division will face off against Kane’s Central Division in a 20-minute 3-on-3 contest, the format now being used in overtime at both the NHL and AHL levels. In his 10-year pro career, Scott has never been on the ice for such a wide-open, free-wheeling affair.

“This will be the first and only time I play 3-on-3,” he said. “It’ll be fun.”

His wife and daughters will join him in Nashville, as will both sets of grandparents. Maybe it started off as a joke, but John Scott plans to have the last laugh.

“I just want the game to come,” he said Tuesday. “I’m sick of this part, the lead-up, with the hemming and hawing back and forth. I want to enjoy the game.”