Hockey

Tugnutt bases mock presidential campaign on honesty

A Canadian goaltender in the White House?

"Vote Tugnutt" is a tongue-in-cheek promotion by the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets that spoofs political advertisements. It plays continually on local TV, a patriotic tribute to goaltender Ron Tugnutt's pretend presidential campaign.

On Friday night, the Blue Jackets host a team from the nation's capital. Thousands of posters will be handed out for the game against Washington, featuring Tugnutt wearing his red, white and blue uniform, arms folded in defiance and his jaw jutting out underneath his goalie mask.

In the background is an American flag, making Tugnutt look like hockey's version of Patton.

A free-agent signee over the summer, Tugnutt, born in Scarborough, Ont., has spent most of his 14-year NHL career playing in Quebec, Edmonton, Montreal and Ottawa, with stateside stops in Anaheim and Pittsburgh. He's not even eligible to vote in the United States, much less run for president.

If he were a candidate, he'd run on the plank of honesty.

"Something a little different," he said with a laugh. "It's funny. I'm Canadian and I still find myself watching some of the presidential campaigns and it seems like they keep catching each other in lies."

A reporter asked if that wasn't also the case in Canada.

"Everybody's honest in Canada!" Tugnutt protested.

He wouldn't even be the unanimous choice of his own teammates. "I love the guy but, no," captain Lyle Odelein said, holding back a laugh. "Not even in Canada would I vote for him." Defenceman Jamie Heward, from Regina, said he would cast his ballot for his countryman.

"Oh, yeah, because he's Canadian, for sure," Heward said. "I don't get to vote for an American president, so I might as well vote for somebody I know."

Tugnutt would get the vote of centre Robert Kron. "I'd vote for him. Anytime. For any office," said Kron. Kron, however, is a native of the Czech Republic and also isn't registered to vote in the United States.

Tugnutt's popularity with his teammates might have something to do with his value to the Blue Jackets. His 3.01 goals-against average is better than that of such standouts as Martin Brodeur of Stanley Cup champion New Jersey (3.24) and Dominik Hasek of Buffalo (3.4).

Tugnutt's save percentage of .899 tops Washington's Olaf Kolzig (.895) and Calgary's Mike Vernon (.883).

All of that is somewhat surprising because Tugnutt's defence is composed primarily of cast-offs, rookies and journeymen. Tugnutt has the Blue Jackets' only win, a 3-2 decision at Calgary on Oct. 12, and he stopped 34 shots in Sunday night's 2-1 overtime loss to Detroit.

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