By now you're probably familiar with the online campaign to write in Vancouver Canucks' defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick to the All-Star game. There's been such a swell of support that Fitzpatrick has approached the leaders and still has somewhat of a shot of making it.
At first I thought it was amusing but didn't pay much attention to it, or really care either way. Then some creative negative advertising swayed me:
What finally made me break down and actually throw a bunch of votes Rory's way was the obnoxious tone delivered by numerous talking heads in saying that voting for Fitzpatrick was a travesty, "...ballot-stuffing..." "...takes honour away from the more deserving players..." blahblah. Yeah, Nick Kypreos should be complaining about the integrity of hockey.
I fail to see much - if any - difference between this and major [...cough...] "legitimate" ballot-stuffing campaigns going on around the league. If you happen to catch any Florida Panthers home telecasts, there is a fairly prominent ad to vote in Jay Bouwmeester (whom I really like, but to be fair, isn't really deserving this year). I'm also aware that they have a heavy promotion at home games with flyers and buttons urging fans to vote for Jay and Oli Jokinen. Even in Buffalo, where at least you could make the convincing argument that there are four or five players deserving of a starting nod, there's a coordinated effort to get out the vote (which is working as of last week's reported tallies: they have Daniel Briere, Maxim Afinogenov, and Chris Drury all in the top eight forwards - with write-in Thomas Vanek even at a strong 14th spot, the top goalie in Ryan Miller, and Brian Campbell second on defence).
To me it seems quite simple: either it's all ok, or none of it is. It reeks of arrogance when certain media members speak out and are apparently incensed by fun grass-roots efforts like this. The All-Star game isn't supposed to be what hockey is all about. And that's fine - obviously nobody wants their star player getting injured in an exhibition, but that's just it: the same people who tout that it is an exhibition then will talk about integrity. You think if Owen Nolan ever did this in an actual game he wouldn't be bleeding at some point during his next shift? The game is a joke but we all know it's a joke; it's supposed to be fun. On the flip side, those of you who remember Mike Ramsey's fantastic hipcheck on Wayne Gretzky in an early-80s All-Star game may also recall it being reacted to with shock. I don't recall more than a single handful of actual checks since then.
It's just an All-Star game. It would be one of the coolest stories of the year if journeyman Rory Fitzpatrick gets to line up for the national anthems alongside players like Jarome Iginla and Joe Thornton. I know I'll be much more likely to watch if Rory gets in, and I suspect I wouldn't be alone in that regard. Vote Rory and vote often.