“Five times,” replied the Vancouver Canuck goaltender. Coach Alain Vigneault admitted he’s also cast a couple of ballots in Fitzpatrick’s favour. So apparently have several thousand other people.
Trying to vote the journeyman defenceman on to the Western Conference team for the NHL all-star game has become a trend like reality TV. A spark that began with an Internet website has taken hold like wildfire. Fitzpatrick, who has played only 16 games this year after fracturing a bone in his heel, has garnered 144,819 votes, fifth most among Western Conference defenceman. That puts him ahead of teammate Mattias Ohlund and Scott Hannan of the San Jose Sharks.
As a write-in candidate, Fitzpatrick gained 113,509 votes this week, more than any other Western Conference player.
Suddenly the Rochester, N.Y, native, who also has played for Montreal, St. Louis, Nashville and Buffalo, is hot like Angelina Jolie. He’s close to becoming a household name like Brad Pitt and is very confused by his new-found celebrity status.
“If anybody knows me they know I don’t like to be the focal point of anything,” said Fitzpatrick, 31, who looked like he’d rather face Alexander Ovechkin one-on-one than deal with the media horde that wanted to talk to him.
“I’d rather just do my business and go home. I’m going to have fun with it. Everybody seems to be enjoying it. I thought last week it would be over in a week. Maybe next week we won’t hear too much about it.”
Maybe, but unlikely.
Like a rock rolling downhill, the Fitzpatrick phenomenon is gaining momentum. It has caught the attention of Hockey Night in Canada and media across North America.
The company that sells Canucks wear is planning on selling Vote for Rory t-shirts at Friday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The movement to get Fitzpatrick on the all-star team began with Steve Schmid, a Buffalo Sabres fan who started voteforroy.com.
“A guy like Rory Fitzpatrick deserves to go to the all-star game over a lot of other guys who probably don’t want to be there anyway,” Schmid said in an interview. “He showed a lot of determination to stay in the league and make the most out of his role.
“The all-star game is a great way not only to honour the superstars but honour the guys that are the best at their role. “
Schmid said his website has received hits from over 140 countries.
He recently decided to run ads on the website on the condition those advertising make a pledge to The Canucks For Kids charity.
Fitzpatrick said he’s never spoken to Schmid and only found out about the website when his brother told him.
The NHL uses fan voting to determine the starting lineup for the all-star game, which will be played Jan. 24 in Dallas.
Fans can vote for three forwards, two defencemen and one goaltender for each conference team. Voting ends Jan. 2.
Fitzpatrick wouldn’t say if he’ll play if voted on to the team.
“I have no idea,” said the 10-year veteran who has scored nine goals in his career. “I’m not going to make any plans to go to Dallas.
“If it happens, then that’s a whole other fence to climb at that point.”
Some people say voting Fitzpatrick onto the team makes a joke out of the selection process. Others think its unfair fans can vote as many times as they like for a single player.
NHL spokesman Gary Meagher said the league won’t argue with the fans wishes.
“The purpose of fan balloting is to give our great fans a voice in the selection of the all-star starting lineup,” Meagher said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press. “It should be no surprise at all that our passionate fans have responded to this opportunity with the same intensity they bring to the rink every night.”
Ohlund, who has averaged over 25 minutes a game on a Canuck team that has struggled to a 13-14-1 record, said it wouldn’t bother him if Fitzpatrick gets an all-star nod over him.
“I have too many things to worry about to be mad about that,” said Ohlund. “If it happens. . . I think it’s just a funny thing.”
Fitzpatrick shrugged about getting more votes than his teammate.
“He said he voted for me, so that’s his fault,” he laughed.
For their part, the Canuck players and coaching staff have found the focus on Fitzpatrick a nice diversion from questions about the team’s lack of scoring.
Veteran Trevor Linden just grinned when asked if he’s voted yet.
“No,” he deadpanned. “I’m going to wait for him to get back in the lineup before I cast my vote.
“I want to see him a little more before I make my decision.”