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Hometown write-in campaign helps put Howard in All-Star Game

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When Jimmy Howard was a player in the Ogdensburg Minor Hockey Association, he and his teammates often went through weight-lifting sessions in the Golden Dome with weight training coach Jim McCarthy.

“One day Jimmy and his buddies were working out and Ryan Krish says to me that Jimmy is going to make the NHL, it’s a done deal,” recalled McCarthy who is now a supervisor in the buildings and grounds department for the Ogdensburg City School District.

Howard went on to an NHL career and in recent weeks McCarthy played a lead role in a grass roots voting campaign that helped the Detroit Red Wings goalie earn selection to the NHL All-Star game, which will be played in Ottawa on Jan.29.

In his third full NHL season, Howard has been the winningest goalie in the NHL since the start of the season and ranks among the league leaders in several categories, but was not nominated for the all-star team.

Dismayed at the omission, McCarthy organized his own on-line, write-in campaign that led to Howard being the leader among all NHL players for write-in votes.

“I emailed everyone at school, I put a link on my Facebook page and emailed letters all over the place asking people to vote for Jimmy. He deserves to be an all-star,” McCarthy said. “I voted hundreds of times and I know other people cast a lot of votes too.”

One of those people who voted many times was lifelong-friend Kevin “Skinner” O’Neill of Ogdensburg who thought an injustice was rectified on Thursday when Howard and center Pavel Datsyuk were selected by the NHL Board of Gouvenors to represent the Red Wings in the pool of players that will be drafted into two all-star teams.

The captains and assistants in charge of selecting the squads will be announced next week. One of them is expected to be Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson.

“I didn’t vote as much as Terry Axtell and Jon Shaver, who coordinated a big effort. I think it’s just great that Jimmy will be in the all-star game and hopefully he will help Detroit win the Stanley Cup,” O’Neill said.

Howard was one of six goaltenders selected, joining Brian Elliott of the St.Louis Blues, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. The all-star talent pool also includes 34 forwards and14 defensemen.

“Jimmy is obviously very excited and the great fan support he received from the north country definitely made a difference. I was getting e-mails every day from people who told me they were pushing for him,” said Howard’s dad, Jim Howard, on Thursday while watching Detroit’s game with Phoenix on television. “I want to thank everyone that voted.”

The timing of the selection couldn’t have been better for Howard as the all-star game will be played just across the St. Lawrence River from his native Ogdensburg in Ottawa. And it comes just two months after his wife Rachel gave birth to their first son, James Howard IV.

It also came on a night when Howard, 27, lifted his season record to 25-10-1 with his 100th career NHL win in a 3-2 victory over Phoenix where he posted two of his 27 saves in a shootout which followed a 2-2 tie.

“He’s played real well and become an important part of our team,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock on the Detroit Red Wings website shortly after the final selections were made on Thursday. “Goaltending is very important but obviously Howie has become an upper echelon player on our team. He’s been very consistent.”

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