Rory Fitzpatrick probably never fancied himself as the inspirational leader for a political movement. But the campaign that nearly voted the journeyman defenseman to the NHL All-Star Game two years ago showed Internet-savvy puckheads that when it comes to stuffing the ballot box for snubbed players, the answer is "Yes We Can."
Call them The Rory Party: Fans from around the NHL who are determined to garner support for write-in candidates for the All-Star Game. Thanks to the NHL's Web-based fan voting, players who didn't make the all-star ballot -- and players that fans would either get a nostalgic or perverse kick from seeing in the game -- are having campaigns form around their sudden candidacies.
Voting started this morning, and the League's real-time results are offering a glimpse at potential write-in juggernauts -- including some real surprises from places like Boston, Buffalo and Phoenix. Our look at the campaigns, and the chances they're real movements or fads.
Teppo Numminen, Buffalo Sabres: The veteran defenseman -- a former Winnipeg Jet, no less -- is getting a major push from the local fans and media. Honk If You Love Justice is just one of the Sabres fan blogs pushing the campaign. WGR 550 in Buffalo actually has a Vote for Teppo campaign commercial. Political Movement or Passing Fancy: Movement. Buffalo fans are passionate, and if the MSM is involved already, this one could be a monster. Teppo had over 600 votes as of this morning. (Ed. Note: Because there's been some confusion with the headline -- Teppo is, in fact, on the ballot. But he's included here due to the fan campaign behind him.)
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins: One of the first bursts of outrage over the all-star ballot came from Boston, which felt that goalie Tim Thomas was absolutely jobbed out of a nomination. Vote for Thomas is taking off, with well over 8,000 votes already this morning. Hub Hockey is helping to coordinate the effort, with posts like this:
In collaboration with the two "Vote For Thomas" campaign groups on Facebook, we are starting the first of many "Crash The Net" voting sessions. Between 7PM-8PM tonight, right before the B's play the Blackhawks, we want all Bruins fans to head over to the official voting website and cast their vote for Thomas over and over again. We want to show we mean business on day one and that Boston still is a hockey town.
So far, so good. Political Movement or Passing Fancy: Movement. As long as Thomas keeps playing well, Bruins fans and other supporters will stuff the ballot box.
Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes: Uh, what? As of this morning, Yandle had over 4,000 write-in votes in the Western Conference, making him second overall. The only reference we found to his campaign was on the HF Boards. It's out there, and it seems to be working. Political Movement or Passing Fancy: Honestly, we have no idea. Today's vote tally could be an aberration, or it could be Obama in Iowa for all we know.
Devin Setoguchi, San Jose Sharks: Another early campaign, as Sharks fans backed a player having a breakout season. Vote for Setoguchi already has a dedicated blog, and the support of other blogs like Battle of California. Political Movement or Passing Fancy: We'd err on the side of Passing Fancy. Yes, he's going to garner plenty of support from Sharks fans. But unlike some of the other write-in candidates, San Jose isn't exactly the most beloved team for fans of other NHL rivals. That could hurt his overall chances.
Niclas Wallin, Carolina Hurricanes: "The Secret Weapon" has a rather amazing fan-created campaign site pimping his candidacy. Whether that translates into votes is another matter, but the MSM has already taken notice in the form of News & Observer blogger Luke DeCock. Political Movement or Passing Fancy: Passing fancy. But a killer Web site, no doubt.
Mirtle has more on the fan voting, including two important safety measures the NHL has put in place to keep the Rory Fitzpatrick-types out of the All-Star Game. First is this disclaimer: "To be eligible for the 2009 All-Star team, a player must have played 20 games by January 2, 2009." Get cracking, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.
James also points to this clause for auto-voting:
13. How many times can I vote?
You can vote as many times as you like via the internet or text message during the Promotion Period (as defined in #3 above). However, the NHL will have in place monitoring procedures designed to prevent individuals from unfairly influencing the outcome of the voting by generating significant blocks of votes using technical enhancements. The NHL reserves the right to disqualify, block or remove any votes from any individual who votes by any electronic, mechanical or automated means, or otherwise tampers with the vote process, or for any other reason that would have the effect of unfairly influencing the outcome of the voting process, as determined by the NHL in their sole discretion.
It's too early to tell if there are going to be more fan-ballot campaigns this season. Keep an eye on the HF Boards, Facebook and especially on the Something Awful forums, which is the birthplace of both Vote for Rory and the Hockey Scores "HNIC" theme song hilarity.
Vote early, vote often, folks. (If the site doesn't keep crashing, that is.) And please add any fan campaigns we may have missed in the comments.