Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Rory Fitzpatrick Affair

One of the biggest stories so far this season has been that of Rory Fitzpatrick. The Vancouver Canucks defenceman was the center of a popular write-in campaign to have him voted a starter in the NHL All Star Game. Officially, he has fallen short on votes.

To date, I have reserved comment on the situation. I did not vote for Rory. I did not vote at all for any All Stars. Thats part of my rejection of this meaningless and usually not very exciting game. I enjoy the process of selecting all stars on merit. I understand that when you let fans vote, there is no guarantee that their choices will be the best players in the NHL and that is fine. Thats an accepted part of fan voting. I found the fact that the question was asked frequently - if Rory Fitzpatrick is voted a starter should he actually play in the game - insulting. Of course he should play. He was voted there just like anyone else who was voted there.

The all internet fan voting system allowed a few dedicated people to have great influence in the results. This is a flaw in the system, but one that could be fixed.

When the voting began, there was a movement to get an improbable player into the game. Rory Fitzpatrick was chosen as this player. A website sprung up. For an NHL that has claimed an interest in viral marketing to keep themselves in the news, this was the viral marketing they wanted. I believe that some of the people running the marketing and viral marketing in the NHL may have fanned the flames a bit. Make the story bigger. It was a winner and they saw that. Conspiracy theorists even argue that the NHL may have come up with this campaign. The success of this campaign at gathering media attention can easily be seen by looking at deadspin hockey. Deadspin covers stories from a wide variety of sports. Four of their last five hockey stories (dating back to late November) are all on Rory Fitzpatrick. This is a greatly successful viral marketing campaign. One that is much higher profile than some others.

Like any large organization. In the NHL, the left hand doesn't always know what the right hand is doing. There were NHL employees who were never really onboard with the "vote for Rory" campaign. They could put a happy face on when they talked about it, as long as Rory Fitzpatrick was not actually voted into the All Star Game. But this campaign was big. It definitely looked like Rory would get into the game. After four weeks of voting, Rory Fitzpatrick was looking quite likely to be voted into the game. He was in second place among defencemen. Then something happened. Something that doesn't seem legit.

Tyler Dellow at Mutcrutch hockey outlines the case that something fishy occurred. In the final two weeks of voting, Rory Fitzpatrick votes suddenly dropped off by around 100,000 votes per week. The ratio of west conference defenceman votes to west conference forward and goalie votes shows an abnormally high number of "missing" votes. Since the NHL only published the vote leaders, we cannot know exactly how many votes were cast, but we do know the leaders totals, so we approximately know the votes cast. Suddenly, in week five the number of votes for West Conference defenceman dropped relative to those of forwards or goalies. Where did the missing votes go?

The explanation that sets the NHL in the best light is that they realized that some people were using "bots" to vote, automated programs to cast ballots for Rory Fitzpatrick. So they chose to discard the Rory votes while keeping the votes for the other people on the bot ballot. The most heinous explanation is that the NHL rigged the vote. Rory was getting too many votes and they didn't actually want him in the All Star Game.

Books have been written about corruption in US Presidential elections that was less clear than this. It is quite convincing that something happened to the voting process to keep Rory Fitzpatrick out of the All Star Game. The viral marketing campaign got too big and the people in charge of the NHL didn't like it so had to be defused. Rory was allowed to almost make the All Star Game, but he couldn't actually make it, even if vote totals had to be modified a bit.

i'm not sure what the hub-bub was all about anyway. Garth Butcher was an all-star. How? he was a blue and the blues legit all-star d-man that year got injured (probably either jeff brown or cavallini- i don't remenber who). Garth Butcher in a no defense, no check, no elbow in the corner game?!?! thems were the rules.

and then you had comish picks thrown on teams in the past like oh, dale hunter. (the same goonish dale hunter beloved in washington but dreamt about by turgeon in nightmares) but thems the rules

any way the fans attempt to take contol of any nhl allowed "power" i'd suppor, i just wish it wasn't rory as the test case, come on guys we could have gotten someone IN if it wasnt rory!! sigh we couldnt even take advantage of the rules!! i say next year we nominate (and elect) some one who needs to pass re-entry waivers and see what happens!!
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