Customers not always right

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

There is such a thing as too much fan power.

If the Internet-based attempt to get write-in Rory Fitzpatrick into the starting lineup of the NHL All-Star Game isn't enough proof -- the injured journeyman Vancouver Canucks defenceman may even leapfrog Calgary Flames phenom Dion Phaneuf into fourth or higher among blueliners when the updated numbers come out in a couple of days -- take a look at how far defending Vezina Trophy winner Miikka Kiprusoff is behind the Dallas Stars' Marty Turco.

Barring a Rory-like campaign in support of the Flames backstop doesn't begin before the Jan. 2 voting deadline, Turco will start the Jan. 24 event in front of his hometown fans, who no doubt have a lot to do with his 226,724 ballots as of last week's tally compared to Kiprusoff's 178,324. You can vote as many times as you like and the host city's fans are obviously making use of their computer keyboards.

"Fan voting is a dumb way to do it," said Flames defenceman Andrew Ference yesterday on picking starters. "The All-Star Game is about having the best players showcased. The people who know that best are the people involved in the business.

"Really, it can be so skewed with fan voting, it's silly. The last people who should have the final word are hometown fans."

Ference has no beef with Turco. No one should, he's worthy of starting the game.

It's just the race to decide the honour should be closer.

Robyn Regehr, one of four Flames on the ballot, said it's probably fitting the spotlight-shying Kiprusoff isn't centre stage yet anyway.

"I honestly think he really doesn't lose any sleep at night over something like this. His personality (dictates) he's the guy who doesn't like to be up front and centre," said Regehr.

Kiprusoff, who has never played in an NHL All-Star Game, was puzzled anyone would want to talk about the showcase tilt at all until the final selections are unveiled.

"I haven't thought about it at all," said the goalie, who deserved an all-star appearance last season but the game was cancelled.

"I played a couple of times in the AHL's all-star game. That was a good time there. We'll see if they pick me ."

There's little doubt Kiprusoff will get to play a period in Dallas when the league rounds out the Western Conference squad.

YELLE HAS TO WAIT:

C Stephane Yelle (ankle) practised with the team yesterday for the first time in nearly two months. He could return to the lineup Thursday night in Vancouver.

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KIPPER VERSUS TURCO

Dallas netminder Marty Turco is leading Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff in all-star fan voting. Here are their 2006 stats:

MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF, CALGARY FLAMES

GP W GAA Sh% SA SO

25 14 2.04 .929 722 4

MARTY TURCO, DALLAS STARS

GP W GAA Sh% SA SO

25 15 2.04 .922 618 3


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