Sports Outside the Beltway

Did the NHL Fix the All-Star Ballot?

According to Daniel Engber of, they just might of to keep Rory Fitzpatrick out of the All-Star Game.

I believe the evidence suggests the NHL cooked the books. Since the league counted only ballots that were entirely filled in, there should have been an equal number of votes cast for hockey’s two conferences. But for the week after Christmas, players in the Eastern Conference received 6 percent more votes than those in Fitzpatrick’s Western Conference. Among defensemen, the results were even more skewed: The guys in the West—Rory among them—got 16 percent fewer votes overall. (These discrepancies were about three times bigger than any that had come before.) As bloggers were quick to point out, the numbers were exactly what you’d expect to see if the league had manually dumped 100,000 Rory votes. Nothing has been proved, but I’m hard-pressed to come up with another reasonable explanation.

If the league did toss out votes, it could have done so with a lot more subtlety. For example, it might have eliminated the votes of every player who was listed on each of the Rory ballots. That would have reduced the totals by equal numbers in both conferences, making the subterfuge undetectable. But the vote count released by the NHL suggests a more ham-fisted approach.

Its the problem in letting the fans vote, they tend to stuff the ballot box for their guys. I remember as a kid grabbing as many MLB All-Star ballots that I could and voting for every Angel on the ballot, not because they were the best because they were my team. Of course I wasn’t the first or the last baseball fan to do such a thing….

In 1957, the commissioner of baseball had to step in when Cincinnati Reds fans managed to elect most of the team’s starting lineup at the expense of players like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. The introduction of online voting made cheating even easier: A Boston computer programmer famously hacked Major League Baseball’s on-line system* to push Nomar Garciaparra ahead of Derek Jeter in 1999.

But as Engber points out, its an issue of trust, if you want it to be a fans game underhanded tricks to fix what the league sees as a more acceptable outcome is unacceptable.

t’s been almost two years since a lockout almost ruined the sport. Now the league has baited, misled, and rejected its fans. The NHL has hit a new low. It’s turned the All-Star Game—an event that’s supposed to be about giving people what they want—into a repudiation of the game’s most loyal supporters.

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