Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Somewhere, some hockey humorist with a half-decent memory might write in Rory Fitzpatrick for president today. Chances are that the once-hot story is merely a faded memory, no longer even in the minds of those who once PhotoShopped the marginal defenseman to his 15-minutes of fame.
But not too long ago, the NHL All-Star game was doing something it had not done since players skated without helmets; it was generating a legitimate buzz. Of course, let's not give the league itself too much credit for the attention generated by the Vote for Rory campaign: it seems that the league didn't find that grassroots campaign all that funny.
The movement took advantage of the NHL allowing fans to vote for All-Stars as many times as they pleased (not surprisingly, the league changed the guidelines for future All-Star voting because of this fiasco). Eventually, Rory Fitzpatrick came just short of receiving the number of votes necessary to start the NHL All-Star game and eventually was black balled from even making an appearance.
The highly questioned final voting numbers: 1) Niklas Lidstrom (591,657 votes) 2) Scott Niedermayer (573,069) and Rory Fitzpatrick (550,177)
The NHL receives praise for being relatively "tech savvy" compared to other major league sports who threaten lawsuits against YouTube and other fan-unfriendly moves.
But the league's sloppy handling of the Vote for Rory movement shows that the league still must learn that anything but the most negative bit of publicity is good for the game. This was a harmless, good-hearted showing. Finally, a no-name player was going to get a pat on his back for his hard work. Sure ... much like Pensblog's "What Would Gary Roberts Do?" wristbands, there's certainly more than a touch of irony to the promotion. And it DID expose the league's questionable decision to beg for web traffic at the expense of all-star accuracy. But Vote for Rory was a classic moment of making lemonade out of the lemons that are the league's marketing ideas.
And the humorless NHL absolutely, positively blew it.
As shocked as we may be by the way the Edmonton Oilers organization treated DMFB, the Rory situation is all the evidence needed to show how out of touch this league can be. The NHL is not unlike that arcade owner in Wayne's World: completely unaware that they're being referred to as sphincters.
Oh, well. Maybe the league cannot keep up with the humor and insanity of the blogosphere, but that's OK. We'll just talk amongst ourselves.
Here's the Rory Fitzpatrick "Attack Ads" in their YouTubed glory:
Edit: just saw that Sean Leahy mentioned the Vote for Rory campaign in a post on Puck Daddy today, so apparently I'm not the only one who thought of the NHL All-Star game when I should have been trying to decide if a handshake visit with John Cornyn was enough to earn my vote.