You know who must feel terrible this morning? Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson.
Senators fans flooded the ballot box for the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, getting four (!) Ottawa players elected in as "starters" in the game scheduled for their fair city later this month. Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson led the voting with 939,951 votes. Captain Daniel Alfredsson, center Jason Spezza and winger Milan Michalek, who topped Phil Kessel by 42,144 on the last day of voting, join him.
Anderson? He had 79,064 votes and finished 15th behind starter Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. Which means Ottawa fans punched their ballot for five other players (including defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who mercifully finished third behind starter Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs) but intentionally left Anderson off.
Poor bastard. That barely more people than watch postgame coverage on VERSUS-nee-NBC Sports Network ...
This isn't the first time the locals have stormed the gates to get their guys in. Everyone remembers the chicanery from the 2010 ASG in Montreal, when Montreal Canadiens fans found a way around the system to get Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek, Alex Kovalev and Carey Price into the game.
Of course, there was an entire other conference full of fan-voted starters to help balance the local support. Not so much in 2012, where fan balloting has been pretty much rendered irrelevant by the NHL. Except for, like, Ontario apparently.
The league's Fantasy Draft format has (a) rendered the idea of "starters" pointless, as the NHL now just refers to the six players selected by fans as the "first players" added to the game; and because of that, (b) the majority of hockey fans have become apathetic to fan balloting.
They don't quite understand what their votes mean anymore, and stuffing the ballot box has been discouraged. Which really sucks out all the "Vote for Rory" whimsy.
Here are the vote totals from last year vs. this year for forwards:
The NHL states that "from Nov. 14 through Jan. 4, when fans worldwide cast interactive online ballots at NHL.com and via mobile devices, approximately 24 million votes were registered -- a 66% increase over last season." And looking at the vote totals, they've certainly grown.
But we've fallen quite a ways from the NHL pimping Sidney Crobsy's vote record. All-Star balloting is barely on the radar for most fans, save to complain about the results.
Which means fans aren't engaged with the process. If that's the point, then fine. If it's not and the NHL wants its fans involved, then it needs to clearly spell out the stakes for fan voting so we know what it means to cast a ballot.
Then again, maybe this season's All-Ottawa ballot gives us a reason to care.
None of the top 10 scorers in the NHL were voted in on the first ballot. Spezza is No. 12; Karlsson, whose All-Star status isn't in question, is also in the top 20. Either Alfredsson or Spezza and then Karlsson … isn't that enough? There's a finite number of All-Stars we can have on these rosters. The local fans are loving this; the NHL fan hoping to see Star X play on the same line as Star Y are not.
At this point you might just say, "Well, blame the out-of-market fans." Well, we'll blame the NHL instead: For this confusing system that sparks fan apathy in markets outside of the host province and for having an All-Star game that's a local carnival for sponsors and fans, dressed up to look like an actual honor to players.
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