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I voted for Rory!

December 8, 2006

It’s amazing how Internet campaigns get started. This one is picking up steam amongst rabid National Hockey League fans, who are upset with the system for selecting the league’s all-star teams.

Fans are voting for Rory Fitzpatrick (Getty)This season, the NHL decided to let the fans vote on the Internet for the starting lineups for the Eastern and Western Conference squads. The typical superstar players are there on the top of the vote count, but the option to select a write-in candidate has been embraced by the fans in an unusual way.

An article in the Toronto Globe and Mail details the efforts of a group of fans to vote Vancouver Canucks defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick into the West’s all-star lineup. His stats: 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, -2 rating, 18 penalty minutes. Not exactly all-star material.

But that’s not stopping this campaign. VoteForRory.com is the virtual HQ for this movement to get a hockey “every man”-type player, a gritty hard-nosed grinder of a player that’s not flashy but gets the job done, the credit they all richly deserve.

So far, Rory is 5th overall in the West defensemen voting:

Defensemen
Scott Niedermayer ; Anaheim 329,657
Nicklas Lidstrom ; Detroit 317,373
Chris Pronger Anaheim 219,372
Dion Phaneuf ; Calgary 208,945
*Rory Fitzpatrick ; Vancouver 144,819
Sergei Zubov ; Dallas 110,562
Mattias Ohlund ; Vancouver 110,146

Rory with the Sabres last yearHe would likely need to get in the top 2 to be assured a spot in the lineup. He will likely not get in through a coach’s appointment.

So last night, I went to the NHL site, and I “voted for Rory.”

Look for this to pick up steam as the MSM picks up the story. SI.com’s Allan Muir is on the case:

In the 16 games he has played for the Canucks, Fitzpatrick has shown himself to be nothing more than a determined plugger — the kind of hard-working depth player whose efforts catch the eye of a certain group of fans in towns across the league.

In fact, it was the very ordinary and workmanlike way that Fitzpatrick goes about his job that grabbed the attention of Steven Schmid. Looking to promote an unheralded player, the Buffalo native masterminded an online effort (http://www.voteforrory.com/) to encourage hockey fans to bypass the Scott Niedermayers and Nick Lidstroms of the world and cast their ballots for Rory instead when they vote for the league’s all-stars.

As crazy as it sounds, it’s working.

It started off slowly, but Schmid’s campaign has snowballed over the last 10 days. The most recent vote count, released by the NHL on Wednesday, revealed that — unbelievably — Fitzpatrick sits in fifth place among Western Conference blueliners with nearly 150,000 votes. He trails Niedermayer, Lidstrom, Chris Pronger and Dion Phaneuf, but he is ahead of 2006 Norris Trophy finalist Sergei Zubov and Team Canada staples Rob Blake, Robyn Regehr and Scott Hannan.

Pretty impressive for a write-in candidate.

More impressive are the trends. Fitzpatrick led all Western Conference vote- getters during the last week — by a healthy margin. Amazingly, at the rate he’s gaining, a spot among the top two is within reach.

Rory T-shirt

Muir goes on, about how the NHL should be aiming to capitalize on this:

Schmid sees this as more than a chance to honor the game’s ham-and-eggers. “If the NHL could figure out how to market their players like Fitzpatrick is being marketed by us now, it would be an incredible recipe for their success,” he said, coming off as someone who is in the middle of telling a joke when they realize that people are taking them seriously and then simply decides to go with the flow. But you know what? He’s absolutely right.

Instead of sweeping this under the carpet — as it may have done in the early vote counts — the NHL needs to embrace this effort. Because, in case the league didn’t recognize it, this is opportunity knocking.

What started out as a little joke for the most hardcore of hockey devotees has the potential to capture the attention of sports fans across North America — most of whom wouldn’t know Sidney Crosby from Sidney Bristow.

Fitzpatrick’s inclusion in the ranks of the stellar might even get some of those otherwise oblivious fans to tune into the game on Jan. 23 just to see how Everyman does. Once there, they’ll be exposed to the game’s long-term selling points, like Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Joe Thornton.

That’s why the NHL needs to take ownership of the Fitzpatrick hype. NBC is broadcasting the game. The league should be on the phone today working the cross-promotional angle. Let’s get Everyman Rory on Jay Leno to tell his story. Have him exchange healthy cooking tips with Meredith Vieira on the Today Show. Let him reveal to Barbara Walters what kind of tree he’d like to be. Arrange a photo-op date to a Hollywood premiere with Jessica Simpson. (Hey, it’s for the good of the game. Surely his wife can’t object to that!)

Ironically, Rory has been out for the past few weeks with a broken ankle, but should be healthy by the time the all-star game comes around in late January.

And, in a sign of support, Rory’s team, the Canucks, will sell “Vote for Rory” t-shirts (a parody of Napoleon Dynamite‘s “Vote for Pedro” shirts) at home games.

Amazing! Good luck to Rory! And NHL, make him a starter for the “every man!”

Thanks to “Big Marketing for Small Business” for pointing this out to me.

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2 Comments
  1. December 22, 2006 3:02 pm

    The NHL is getting 10,000% more media coverage of the All-Star game because of the grassroots web campaign, see my catalogue of links to media and blog coverage at
    http://canesallstars.wordpress.com/2006/12/19/rory-fitzpatrick-media-coverage-update/
    or
    http://tinyurl.com/yndm8y

  2. December 29, 2006 9:03 am

    Find complete updated coverage of the Rory Fitzpatrick campaign here

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