'Net loss for Fitzpatrick

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks journeyman Rory Fitzpatrick dropped to third in NHL all-star voting for Western Conference defenceman with a week to go before the controversial polls close.

Somewhere, Don Cherry is grinning.

Cherry called the Internet write-in campaign started by a Buffalo Sabres fan a joke on Hockey Night in Canada just before Christmas.

He also claimed the voters were using Fitzpatrick as a "jerk" to laugh at and that in the end, Fitzpatrick would be remembered as a "freak."

Fitzpatrick took those comments -- a rare negative outburst about the affable, though not exactly all-star material, blueliner -- very personally.

"I read about it," Fitzpatrick said before the latest results were released. "I think there's probably a lot of reasons I shouldn't be on the all-star team, I don't think 'freak' and 'jerk' are two of those reasons.

"Whatever, everyone's got their opinion. But when it comes out personal like that, it doesn't make much sense. To say that is kind of irresponsible."

Until Wayne Gretzky spoke out against the Fitzpatrick campaign earlier this month, most of the feedback the lighthearted Canuck has been getting -- usually by word of mouth from teammates much more interested in the process than the nominee himself -- has been positive.

"Guys seem to be pretty interested in coming to tell me when they hear something or see something but I haven't put much effort or time into it," Fitzpatrick said.

"It's pretty amazing. Nobody ever thought it would get this big. Guys are having a fun time with it. There's no sense getting upset or worked up about it or anything.

"It's kind of been a light matter around (the dressing room) when things were tough. It's just fun and a little interesting to see what the fans have done."

What the fans, who can vote as many times as they want online, had done was get Fitzpatrick into one of two starter spots before Christmas.

Now, though, he has fallen behind Scott Niedermayer and Nicklas Lidstrom -- who accumulated almost 95,000 more votes during the past week while Fitzpatrick climbed less than 60,000.

Whether it's panicked NHL executives trying to avoid an embarrassing situation or Don Cherry fans backing their icon, the swing may help Fitzpatrick avoid making a decision he's been mum about so far.

"I've pretty much said all along I didn't have plans on going. I didn't think really think I'd have to make a decision," he said.

"I haven't thought about it. If it happens, we'll have to deal with it. But I'm not going to make a decision until it's official one way or the other.

"I think I'd talk to a lot of people about it. It won't be a decision I make on my own. I think it'll be a decision made by several people."

Unless Rory's backers get back to business this week in cyberspace, the decision may already have been made for him.


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