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Rory Fitzpatrick has never attracted attention like this since he turned pro in 1995, and it's all because of an overzealous fan in upstate New York.

The Vancouver Canucks defenceman, sidelined by an ankle injury, is fifth in voting among Western Conference defencemen for the National Hockey League all-star game on Jan. 24 in Dallas.

Fitzpatrick is hardly of all-star calibre and finds the attention almost embarrassing as he sits behind Scott Niedermayer, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger and Dion Phaneuf in balloting by fans, ahead of Sergei Zubov, teammate Mattias Ohlund, Scott Hannan, Mathieu Schneider and Rob Blake.

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Vote for Rory is a campaign championed by Buffalo fan Steve Schmid, who developed a website that promotes the former Sabres journeyman defenceman.

"I'm not making any plans for the all-star game," Fitzpatrick said yesterday. "If it happens, that's another fence to climb, I guess. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

"Anyone who knows me knows I don't like to be the focal point of anything. I'd rather just do my business and go home."

Fans get to pick two defencemen, three forwards and a goalie from each conference.

Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo admitted he votes for Fitzpatrick every day. Ohlund also has voted for his teammate, who would be considered the Canucks' sixth defenceman on the depth chart when healthy.

A fan in Nanaimo, B.C., on Vancouver Island posted an Internet note, claiming to have voted about 3,000 times in one day for Fitzpatrick as the groundswell of support continues.

Fitzpatrick moved to fifth place from 12th in a week as the online voting system shows how flawed the selection process can be.

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The 31-year-old defenceman from Rochester, N.Y., has played 16 games this season. He has no points and has a plus-minus rating of minus-two.

Now, the Canucks have jumped on the bandwagon, too, planning to sell Vote for Rory T-shirts at tonight's game.

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