Why Rory won't go
"I’m not disappointed in falling a spot. If I fall a couple more spots that would be even better. That way there’d be no chance of me having to make a decision on whether to play in the game. Then everybody who thinks this is so important and has personal things to say can drop it and move on to the next story."It was something that, when it started, was a lot of fun.
At least most hockey fans saw it that way. Even those who had never heard of Rory Fitzpatrick got on board, and supported the upstart internet campaign with a good-natured fervour that simply couldn't have succeeded on ill-will for the NHL alone.
But what that campaign has become now is anything but fun — and especially for the man at the centre of things. Wednesday morning in Vancouver, Fitzpatrick was preparing for the second game of a back-to-back contest with the Calgary Flames, but after practice, that night's game wasn't the topic of conversation in the media scrums.
The latest all-star vote totals were.
Fitzpatrick inexplicably fell to third over the past week — something that seems downright impossible barring outside influence given the momentum the campaign had gained in previous weeks — and it was, once again, up to the fringe defenceman to hold court for the masses and offer a sound bites for that afternoon's hourly sports updates.
"Have you ever received this much attention before?" Fitzpatrick was asked.
No, no he hadn't.
"How do you feel about the negative comments regarding the attempt to vote him into the all-star game?"
And on and on it went, with Fitzpatrick sheepishly answering questions about a phenomenon he'd, in the beginning, tried to embrace without fully knowing where the Yellow Brick Road led.
All throughout the campaign to 'Vote for Rory', much has been made of Fitzpatrick as the NHL's everyman, an average player who deserves the chance to represent all of the league's lunch-pail types. The thing is, however, that what Fitzpatrick really represents is the fringe, the anti-all-star — a 31-year-old player who has just 232 career games to his name and fewer goals than fingers and toes. His first big break into free agency this past summer, in a year ripe with over-the-top contracts to blueliners, was a search, really, for a one-way contract — something he found for $525,000 with a Canucks team desperate to fill out its back end with as many buys from the bargain bin as possible.
He's no everyman.
And he's also not used to the spotlight, for obvious reasons. To be suddenly thrust into the open as part of something that was derided openly from Don Cherry's weekly pulpit for the masses, well, that's was never what he bargained for — even when he wore the T-shirt in jest.
Fitzpatrick, at this point, wants to return to being Rory Fitzpatrick — the third-pairing blueliner who's helping Vancouver claw towards a playoff spot. He'd just as soon leave behind the postpractice scrums, the recognition, the bloated Wikipedia entry and his place as a footnote in NHL history as the almost all-star that the talking heads couldn't pooh-pooh quickly enough.
Even if somehow the voting fortunes change and the NHL extends open arms to him, Fitzpatrick has no desire to prolong the ruse that's snowballed into something bigger and uglier than was ever intended.
Vote away — but Rory won't go.
And, once again, the hammerheads of the hockey world will get their way.