Sports Outside the Beltway

An All-Star Fiasco

I still love my hockey, even as I sit here and watch the NHL shoot itself repeatedly in the foot and wonder why they continue to decline as a sport in the US. Its only a matter of time until NASCAR, Arena Football, Competitive Gardening, Golf, Bowling and the WBNA all pass the NHL in popularity. It has already begun here in Los Angeles, where the Anaheim Mighty Ducks are broadcast on some station I’ve never heard of and the Kings were dropped from ESPN Radio 710 in favor of the Clippers, USC Football and USC Basketball. It seems like the only thing less popular than the Kings is the Air America programming they now preempt.

Then comes this year and the NHL All-Star Game, which for some reason the scheduled in January, when everyone is focused on the NFL Playoffs, beyond that as to not lose viewers they make the game on a Wednesday night just to ensure that either West Coast fans will miss the beginning of the game and East Coast fans will miss the end. Why no just wait until February, you know the dead month in sports between the Super Bowl and March Madness, and play the game on a Saturday night when more people are home.

Then comes the big news for the NHL the new uniform design, with the official unveiling coming at the All-Star Game no will be watching. As part of the roll out for next season they designers have been going from team to team for the players to try them out so they can work out the bugs. Unfortunately for the NHL, the reaction from teams like the San Jose Sharks early in the tryout rotation isn’t good:

At the end of the day, players were asked to leave their jerseys hanging in the stalls.
“I’ll hang it right in the garbage,” Smith said.”

One has to question the logic of the NHL rushing into this even more if the majority of players and fans prefer the current jersey style. My preference is for the current style of NHL Jerseys, they make the sport different and that isn’t always bad.

This season also marked the first year of the NHL’s big push for online voting for player selections to the All-Star Game. What it has gotten the NHL was a bunch of internet nerds leading a campaign to get a no-name journeyman in the starting line up and well, its working:

Rory Fitzpatrick is a journeyman National Hockey League defenceman currently playing for the Vancouver Canucks, who hasn’t picked up one point in 20 games this season. He has nine goals and 18 assists over parts of nine NHL seasons, and has never played more than 60 games in a single NHL season.

Despite the less than gaudy statistics, Mr. Fitzpatrick sits second in voting among defencemen in the NHL’s Western Conference for next month’s all-star game in Dallas.

For that, Mr. Fitzpatrick can thank both the NHL’s new voting system for the all-star game — which encourages hockey fans to vote as often as they like — and a Buffalo computer nerd who has persuaded Internet geeks to “Vote For Rory.”

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