Vancouver's Rory Fitzpatrick is a 31-year-old journeyman who through Sunday had no points in 18 games this season. That's not far off his career pace: In 228 games over nine seasons, he has nine goals and 18 assists. So why is Fitzpatrick, who missed more than a month this year with a broken left ankle, sixth in All-Star voting for Western Conference defensemen?
The answer is Steve Schmid, a 22-year-old from Auburn, N.Y. Last month Schmid, who became a fan of Fitzpatrick's when the blueliner played for the Sabres for parts of four years, started the website voteforrory.com and began selling T-shirts and posters asking the public to vote Fitzpatrick to the Jan. 24 All-Star Game in Dallas. "I'm not saying the Ovechkins and Crosbys don't deserve to be there," says Schmid, who has never spoken to Fitzpatrick about the campaign, "but there is room for one underdog in the game."
Since the campaign began, Fitzpatrick, whose name does not appear on the official All-Star ballot, has received 269,048 fan votes. Though he is still well behind Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer (390,028) and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom (371,037) among Western Conference defensemen, his popularity is skyrocketing: Fitzpatrick has been voted for 124,229 times since Dec. 7.
Earlier this month his teammates surprised him by wearing VOTE FOR RORY T-shirts to practice. "I'm just going with it," says Fitzpatrick, who admits he would have mixed feelings about being an All-Star. "I appreciate the support, but this is a game to showcase the best, and it would be a weird way to get in."
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FAN FAVORITE Fitzpatrick has no points this year, but he's sixth in the voting.