RoryGate – Did the NHL "Fix" The All-Star Game?

The NHL All-Star Game is coming up in a couple days.  This year is the first All-Star game since 2004 (2005 was missed due to the lockout, 2006 was skipped due to the Winter Olympics) and many saw it as an opportunity for the league to continue their rebound from the bad feelings caused by the lockout, highlight some of their brightest young stars like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, and reach out to the fans by allowing them to vote for the starting line-up soley via an online system for the first time ever. 

To encourage fans to be involved, the NHL allowed fans to vote as many times as they wanted.  Unfortunately, one fan decided to take advantage of this rule by starting a write-in “Vote For Rory Fitzpatrick” campaign (Rory is a journeyman defenseman with the Vancouver Canucks who, as of today, has a whopping 1 goal and 2 assists this year.)  The campaign caught on with fans and the media across North America and Rory quickly vaulted up to one of the starting positions.  Part of the reason for this was some tech-savvy fans who wrote bots that thwarted the NHL's (feeble) security measures and automated the process of voting multiple times for Rory.  (An analogy might be that they saw the “take a penny/leave a penny” jar and took all fifty pennies in it to buy a chocolate bar – technically “legal” but definitely not in the spirit of the penny jar.) 

But, even with all of the fan support, both human and automated, when the final results were announced, Rory wasn't among the starters named. 

There are obviously two sides to this – people like Wayne Gretzky were on record that this campaign made the league look like a joke (even though the All-Star game is often viewed as a joke anyhow by hockey purists) while others thought “Vote For Rory” was a great media hook that would only serve to stir interest in the league. 

But now, a report in the online magazines, Slate, uncovers evidence that indicates the NHL may have purposely distorted the online voting so that Rory didn't win a spot in the starting line-up.  Reminiscient of the electronic-voting scandal during the 2000 Presidential election, this is a black mark on the NHL if true. 

It's been almost two years since a lockout
almost ruined the sport. Now the league has baited, misled, and
rejected its fans. The NHL has hit a new low. It's turned the All-Star
Game—an event that's supposed to be about giving people what they
want—into a repudiation of the game's most loyal supporters.

Comments 4

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Even if the NHL didn't stuff its own ballot box to keep Rory out, I am not so naive as to think that at least a few fans of Lidstrom and Neidermayer (or Sakic, for that matter) used bots to make sure that their guy made it in.
    It's against the spirit of the process, but presumably it would all even out in the end.
    More to the point, though, the NHL missed out on a glorious marketting opportunity. From the beginning they were spinning the Vote for Rory campaign as an oddity. Gretz said it made the league look like a joke, and Don Cherry (Why doesn't anyone call him Grapes anymore?) said that he thinks that the whole campaign consisted of people laughing at Rory. I think that this impression is partly the fault of the league.
    I think that the campaign could have been spun as an homage to the grinders and journeymen who will never go to the all star game based on their statistics, but who are essential to the league and to even the most successful teams. In 2004, I was hoping that my Sens would pick up Chris Simon at the trade deadline to add some physicality and passion to an already skilled team. Instead they got Peter Bondra (if I recall correctly) and tanked out in the early rounds of the playoffs. Calgary picked up Simon and made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
    Simon and others will never be in an All Star Game, but I almost voted for Rory because I think that it is classy to have that sort of player represented and not just the puck-hogs. This sort of happened in 1993 when the league still felt obliged to send one player from every team to the All Star Game. The Sens were setting a new standard of dreadful in their first year in the league and there wasn't much to choose from. So they appointed Brad Marsh (originally of London, ON) to represent Ottawa at the game. He was a classy and respected veteran defenseman who managed to score only 23 goals in over 1,000 NHL games and was probably one of the worst skaters ever to play in the NHL.
    Ottawa fans loved him in the same way that the Buffalo fan who started the Vote for Rory campaign loves Rory Fitzpatrick — not for his grace, skill or pinache, but because he worked hard and was humble without appologizing for his success. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
    The only goal that Brad Marsh scored in the 1992-93 season was during the All Star Game. 'Nuff said.

    Posted 22 Jan 2007 at 8:42 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Oh yeah – Cheecho, playing with San Jose with all the Silicon Valley-types as fans, probably got as much hacker-help as anyone.
    I'm with you that the NHL should've marketed the heck out of this groundswell of fan support. Instead, they clam down like control freaks.
    Simon was an excellent addition to the Flames and did indeed play a big role in their march to the finals. Having a tough grinder who can fight and also put it in the net sometimes isn't an outdated concept in the “new” NHL – even though many would have you believe so.
    I love the Brad Marsh story about him getting that goal in the All-Star game. If I remember correctly, he prefaced that by being stuck in the “accuracy shooting” contest in the skills competition (where else could they put him? Fastest skater was out as were most other contests.) He ended up not hitting a single target in the minute or so they let them shoot. It was hilarious (in a good way – much as it would've been to have Rory Fitzpatrick skate out with Joe Sakic et al.)

    Posted 23 Jan 2007 at 3:48 am
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Knowing nothing about hockey, football or other sports I got erroneously excited thinking Rory the dog had somehow chewed on important Quinn/Robin papers or tapes or CDs or their answering machine, causing a precarious or compromised political situation, hence the Rorygate.
    This other Rorygate sounds equally important as dogs trying to mess with evidence or intelligence. I'll have to look into it.

    Posted 23 Jan 2007 at 6:22 pm
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Did you see the video clip on Quinn's blog?
    Rory cuteness to a reggae beat.

    Posted 24 Jan 2007 at 5:43 am

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