Kukla's Korner


A Fiasco? In The NHL? Never…

Widely reported around the internet, and summed up nicely on KK by Red and Black Hockey, Habs fans have devised an ingenious way to take over the All-Star game, using technology.

Is this what you meant when you said the NHL has the most tech savvy fans, Bettman?

Posted earlier as well, the NHL is investigating into this, though NHL spokesperson Gary Meaghar is “not at a point where I can say definitively that something has taken place.”

I hate to and apologize for saying it, but this looks like a classic case of egg on face. Most tech savvy fans, maybe, but can the League really claim such innocence from reality? Question is, what’s their move now?

At this point, I think denial will not work one ounce in the League’s favour. It took me all of 30 seconds to find the javascript program that would vote in the six Habs as All-Star game starters, a couple minutes more to get the rest of the setup organized, and only a brief glance at the code and the NHL’s voting page to create my own test version, which would have voted for All-Stars from all the Habs’ divisional rivals. But out of respect for the process and the League, I did not use or disseminate it.

It’s been nine years since a Canadian city has hosted the All-Star game (Toronto, 2000), and seeing today’s technological age produce a trick to manipulate online voting for the first All-Star game hosted in Canada since then by the League’s most storied team is not a surprise to anyone, let alone Canadian hockey fans.

Considering it has been so easy for so many bloggers to spot, having the League deny that they can confirm anything has gone wrong just doesn’t offer up any credibility on their part. The League’s rules say that unlimited voting by fans is permitted, but that automated voting is not. Clearly a violation has occurred, a programmer who is a Habs fan has achieved his 15-blogs of fame, and there is no reason to deny it any more.

It’s actually interesting to note that it took so many days for anything to pop up, be it from the League, officially denying it, or from mainstream media in general picking up on the suspiciously high voting numbers and trends.

What now? The League will probably come up with some non-concrete approach. Voting will remain online, but whatever the League deems to be automated voting will be shot down, in which case the program gets modified to add a random number generator at the end tied to a timer, and Komisarek is removed as a selection to avoid additional suspicion (personally, I can’t ever see myself voting a shutdown defenseman into the All-Star Game anyways, my apologies to the great skill of Komisarek, and Ottawa’s own Phillips, who also appears on the ballot). At best, it will become a once-per-day-per-email rule, wherein a more complex program involving email account creation and use will come about.

Why not have video voting terminals in arenas, where tickets are scanned and fans can vote once per ticket for each game they attend? Have highlight reels rolling through the various candidates on screens, ASG merchandise relating to the event and the local team’s balloted individuals on sale; it presents a great opportunity, I think, but no, it won’t happen.

I can’t help but see a faint way that this relates to the League on a broader level of approach. In many ways, they seem to avoid concrete resolutions which, though appropriate, might not look good publicly. Instead of putting solid rules in place to prevent injuries during icing races, such as no-touch icing or a race to a location before the boards, an incredibly subjective no-attempt-to-injure-esque clause was added into the rules. How quickly we forget why we care. The same goes for hits to the head; we’ll punish them with suspensions as we deem appropriate, but not outlaw them outright. The safety will take away from the game supposedly, even though banning slashing, hits from behind, and much grappling and interference has actually increased hits overall. But safety is bad, makes the game dull, or so I’m told.

How long before we have our own Earnhardt/HANS situation? Maybe we can forget about the incidents that don’t go fully tragic, or that happen to players without big names (which is sad enough in its own way), but how is it going to look if someday, a race for the puck during an icing call sees Crosby broken in half and out for a full season; how exciting and positive was that race? Or if a legal shoulder-to-head check winds up putting Ovechkin off ice forever? I’ll always be a fear monger in suggesting these things, in many eyes.

Back to the point though, to me, the ASG is about showcasing our best players, rewarding their unparalleled skill, their tireless efforts, and their dedication to the game. To that end, you want to see the top stars in the spotlight of course. But the fan voting is not for that, in my humble opinion. I don’t want to vote in just anybody, but whether Crosby is a starter or just a member of the All-Star team, he will never be underestimated. Some are concerned that he is not a starter, but there is little to no chance that his presence will depend solely on the fan voting.

Other players, though, will have their presence far more dependent on the voting, the players who might be on the theoretical sixth All-Star line according to the League, but whose hard work and amazing prior year or sleeper career merit them an inclusion on more grounds than just points. Those are the players that should be voted in, the ones who might not make it otherwise, or who deserve to be recognized, since their work, while not granting them a Hart or Richard trophy, should still honour them with an All-Star game appearance. The All-Stars that can’t be so easily and arbitrarily chosen.

As the American election is over and their get-out-the-vote campaigns have wound down, the Habs fans have started up their get-out-the-stuffing campaigns in full force. Certain Habs deserve to be in the ASG, and no matter who gets voted in, I suspect the League will fill out the roster with deserving candidates. Even if not a single Canadien was voted in, you only have to see just how perfectly the League has arranged the ASG and draft, among other things, to coincide with the Habs’ centennial, to know that they will make sure Montreal is not only in the stands, but on the ice as well.

After all, it is the All-Star game, not the all-Habs game. Let the fans who love the game and know the game, not just know their way around their computers, have their voices heard.

Update - 5:30PM

Posted by Paul, an official statement from the League,

We appreciate the excitement and energy the fans are showing for the All-Star Game and the All-Star voting process. While we encourage all fans to cast votes—even multiple votes—for their favorite All-Star candidates, the League has identified some instances of automated voting activity that expressly is prohibited by the voting rules and regulations. This situation is being addressed and we are in the process of validating all votes to make sure that they comply with the rules.

Translation? The simplest and easiest-to-get-around solution. But a small round of applause for addressing it before we began to see things really getting out of hand, not that Montreal’s forwards having two and a half times the votes of any others (in the 180,000s for all three, compared to less than 75,000 for fourth place Semin), Montreal’s defensemen having four times the votes of any others (around 200,000, compared to less than 50,000 for third place Green), and Carey Price having a 203,587 - 53,072 lead over Lundqvist at the moment. I wonder what the players, especially the Canadiens, think of all this?

Filed in: NHL Media, NHL News, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net