The missing all-star votes
In case you've missed the news, there's just a wee bit of controversy over the final ballot totals in the case of the Rory Fitzpatrick business. As in, some appear to be missing.
Tyler Dellow has what is probably the best summary of where the irregularities occurred, and I've taken his data and created this chart which shows how the voting proceeded. (Recall that the drop-off in votes for Rory declined sharply after he appeared on the front page of publications such as The Globe and Mail and USA Today and received big-time play with ESPN and other popular online destinations.)
What occurred in Week 5 was a strange distribution in the number of votes for Western Conference forwards and defencemen. The NHL's vote system was setup so that every voter was forced to pick three forwards, two defencemen and one goaltender from each conference, meaning the ratio for forwards to defencemen should always equal 3:2.
In Week 5, as Dellow points out, this ratio shifts to 3.53:2 — a difference that would account for more than 100,000 votes for Western Conference defencemen not counted.
This in the same week Fitzpatrick's totals fall from 160,000 to 58,000.
I had my suspicions early on when Fitzpatrick's vote totals began to fall sharply, but now I'm almost certain that something fishy went on. The answers we don't yet have are what, exactly, was changed, why were the ratios reverted to normal for Week 6 and why changes were necessary at all.
I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions — although this may all come out into the open in the next few days.
UPDATE (Not to make this any weirder than it already is, but I will point out that it was also Fitzpatrick's 32nd birthday yesterday.)
UPDATE Chuq Von Rospach points out a link to the all-star ballot rules and regulations, which specifically single out automated voting systems as a no-no:
No automatic, programmed or robotic votes will be accepted. The National Hockey League (“Sponsor”) in its sole discretion reserves the right to void any votes that are cast in contravention of these rules or that are designed to compromise the integrity of this Sweepstakes. ...This is likely what ended up happening — although the skewed voting ratio would indicate only some 'bot' votes were removed (presumably the Fitzpatrick ones) while others were allowed to stand.
Any use of robotic, automatic, programmed or like entry methods will void all entries affected by such methods and be deemed tampering. Entry material/data that has been tampered with or altered is void.
UPDATE The NHL's Bill Daly responds via email.
UPDATE In a story from yesterday that I missed, AHL beat writer Kevin Oklobzija from Fitzpatrick's hometown paper, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, has some great quotes from the man himself:
Indeed, part of the Vote For Rory effort was an attack on the NHL's All-Star procedure, which allowed unlimited voting. "It was more about the fans trying to do something, to show their power and change the system," said Fitzpatrick, who turns 32 on Thursday.The craziest thing about this whole mess might just be that Fitzpatrick ultimately ends up as the one who makes the most sense.
Wayne Gretzky, coach of the Phoenix Coyotes and one of the most influential figures in the game, also spoke out against the campaign, saying the NHL needed to intercede. "But it was too late by then," Fitzpatrick said. "They set up the system. The only thing they could have done was said, 'We screwed up and we have to start over.' "
UPDATE More from Fitzpatrick, who has obviously put a lot of thought into this the past few weeks:
"A month ago, nobody cared about the all-star game. Now it's this big, only-for-the-stars thing and so precious and guys who have made comments probably wouldn't have made comments two months ago. I have to take it as a positive. It got (hockey) some attention and the all-star game some attention.
"To be honest, I kind of represent the majority. The 40 or 50 who are going are the superstars, and pretty special, and that's why they're going. As far as players, they'd embrace me. It's just the sideshow effect I wouldn't want to be part of."