The Hockey Inside/Out website was launched in November 2006 as habsinsideout.com and on Thursday we hit the 1-million mark in comments from Habs fans.
The site averages about 1.75 million page views per month during the hockey season and had 1,029,547 page views in July when there was no hockey being played.
But as all Habs fans know, hockey is a 12-month-a-year sport.
Comment No. 1,000,000 came from Newf_Habster at 11:59 a.m., shortly after the Canadiens announced they had reached an agreement on a one-year contract with free-agent defenceman Douglas Murray, a 6-foot-3, 245-pounder who split last season with the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Canadiens acquired Parros, a 6-foot-5, 228-pound enforcer, from the Florida Panthers this summer.
Newf_Habster’s real name is Darryl Hackett, and he has been a Habs fan “since I came out of my mother’s womb.” The 47-year-old moved from Newfoundland and Labrador to Ottawa in 2001 and says he visits the HIO site a few times every day during the season and a few times every week during the off-season.
“HIO is where many of the most compassionate Habs fans converge to discuss on different news articles concerning our beloved team, and I enjoy reading and engaging in some discussions with them,” Hackett, who is deaf, responded in an email exchange after learning he had posted comment No. 1,000,000. “As a fellow Habs fan, I appreciate their love and compassion, which should not be undermined and/or underestimated. They are simply the best fans in any league in the world, so that is why I proudly enjoy being among them.”
Hackett’s favourite player is P.K. Subban.
“He is the most exciting Habs player that I had ever seen since Guy Lafleur, who is still my all-time Habs idol,” Hackett wrote in an email.
The HIO site, which was the idea of former Gazette editor-in-chief Andrew Phillips, launched on Nov. 24, 2006, when Phillips wrote:
“The Montreal Canadiens have been our city’s favourite team as long as anyone can remember, and The Gazette has had the best team of hockey writers for just about as long. Starting today, there’s a whole new way to keep up with the Habs and take advantage of The Gazette’s edge in hockey writing and reporting. It’s called Habs Inside/Out, and it’s a website that offers fans of the Canadiens ‘absolutely everything’ about the greatest hockey team in the world. It’s one-stop shopping for Habs fans.”
Last year’s annual Hockey Inside/Out Summit had to be cancelled because of the NHL lockout, but the event will return this year and is slated for Saturday, Oct. 26, when the San Jose Sharks visit the Bell Centre. (The photo above is from the first HIO Summit in October 2007.)
HIO member Ian Cobb, who organizes the Summit every year, says that more than 175 HIO members will be attending this year’s event, which will kick off on Friday, Oct. 25 with a get-together at Hurley’s Irish Pub on Crescent St., with fans encouraged to wear their bleu-blanc-rouge colours.
An HIO breakfast is scheduled for the next morning at 8:30 a.m. at the Chez Cora restaurant, located at 1240 Drummond St., followed by a trip to the Canadiens Hall of Fame and a Bell Centre Tour. A pregame meal is planned for the Baton Rouge restaurant beside the Bell Centre (1050 de la Montagne).
After the game, the HIO members will get together again at Hurley’s, where the second floor will be reserved for the group.
Noted Cobb: “Everything is walking distance, so park your car for the weekend. Enjoy talking hockey and meeting your wonderful HIO community at this year’s summit.”
Cobb, a 69-year-old lifetime Habs fan who grew up in St. Lambert and now lives in Belleville, Ont., said that the HIO Summit attracts “people from all different walks of life … so it’s always fun.”
“One guy comes from France every year … and he says he’s coming,” Cobb added. ”There’s a couple coming from Northern California … so it’s pretty much the whole North American continent. We have some people from the Yukon … one of them’s coming, I don’t know if the other ones are or not.”
Cobb says his favourite part of the annual Summit is “just meeting the people.”
“I’m a people guy,” he said. “I had five families (from the HIO group) drop by here (at his home) this summer on vacation. It’s kind of neat.”
Organizing the Summit is a lot of work for Cobb, “but it’s payback,” he said, recalling the days when other HIO members helped teach him to read and write.
Despite being dyslexic, which led to illiteracy until his late 50s, Cobb put together a successful business career, including running a fox and mink ranch in New Brunswick and developing a feed formula he sold to Ralston Purina. He says he managed to hide his illiteracy throughout his business career, only revealing his secret after former Canadiens coach Jacques Demers announced he battled illiteracy in 2005 in a biography titled Jacques Demers: En Toutes Lettres.
“After Jacques came out of the closet, I figured what the hell,” Cobb said. “Financially I didn’t need to bull—anymore.”
You can get more information on the HIO Summit from a Facebook page set up for it by clicking here.
Below is a column Mike Boone wrote about Cobb back in 2008:
(Gazette file photo/Tyrel Featherstone)
Fansite turns teaching tool
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON NOV. 24, 2008
This is the heartwarming story of a former dead-end kid who found friendship and happiness on the Internet.
No, Ian Cobb’s favourite site isn’t kinky.
Cobb is a resident of Belleville, Ont., who has spent most of his 65 years concealing a secret. He couldn’t read or write. About 18 months ago, he discovered Habs Inside/Out, where the words began to make sense because Cobb cared about what Dave Stubbs, Pat Hickey and I were writing.
We’re not making outlandish claims here. The Gazette’s Canadiens fansite can’t bring eyesight to the blind. It can’t cure cancer.
But Habs I/O helped Ian Cobb. And he’s given back by posting countless comments and by becoming one of the primary organizers of the second annual Habs Inside/Out Summit, which brought about 80 fans to the Bell Centre for the Oct. 25 game against Anaheim.
The Canadiens lost that night, but Cobb’s enthusiasm was undiminished.
A typical post: “Boys and girls! We don’t need anyone to tell us that we have a shot at the Cup this year. We, the most perceptive and most informative hockey fans in the world, have been treated and shown how this game is to be played and won for 100 years. We recognize quality and expect performance, from management to throughout the organization …”
Here’s how Cobb describes himself in his Habs Inside/Out profile: “Born in Montreal … Worked many different jobs around Mtl. as a kid, later went working pipeline construction as a labourer, equipment operator and scuba diver for oil & gas co’s … owned and operated two corporations in three provinces, illiterate until my late 50s. Raised three children, retired 10 years ago as just your average millionaire, drive school bus and read and write on Inside/Out, learning here every day with friends!!!”
That’s the bare-bones outline. As he’s told me over too many beers at Habs I/O Summits I and II and in a phone conversation last week, Cobb has done a lot of living since his youth in South Shore St. Lambert.
“My dad was a welder, a church-going man and all that kind of stuff,” Cobb recalls. “He didn’t know why his son couldn’t read or write.
“I felt I let the family down.
I walked around with different inferiority complexes, pissed the bed till I was 12. I was scared to go to school and got strapped every day.”
Neither his father nor his teachers knew that Cobb was dyslexic. In the absence of a diagnosis and special-needs instruction, he stumbled along, repeating Grades 5 and 6.
“I got to know everyone in high school,” Cobb recalls, “because they all went by me.”
He dropped out without finishing elementary school. Cobb was illiterate, but “I could bulls— with the best of them, and I learned how to do that.”
How good was Cobb at concealing his disability?
“My wife of 30 years never knew I couldn’t read or write,” he says.
But, as Cobb’s posted CV indicates, he could do a variety of jobs that didn’t require literacy. He was a teenager, washing dishes at a restaurant near the Forum, when Danny Gallivan took a shine to him and set up Cobb with a room at the downtown YMCA and various odd jobs around the Forum.
“Boom-Boom Geoffrion had a big blue station wagon,” Cobb recalls, “and I used to start it up for him on cold days.”
While living at the Y, Cobb would hang out at the Sir George Williams University library in the adjoining building on Drummond St. He couldn’t read the books, but he liked to look at the pictures.
Fiercely proud of “never taking a friggin’ handout in my life,” Cobb reels off a long list of work experiences that took him from the dress-alteration department at Sears to pipeline construction in Alberta and Kentucky to a jail cell in Oregon (it’s a long story, involving papers that were not in order).
“I’d go with the flow,” Cobb says. “My first trip out west was riding the freight cars.”
The constant was Cobb’s ability to live by his wits, without benefit of the alphabet. He didn’t have to be literate to run a ranch in New Brunswick, where Cobb had 2,000 silver foxes and 36,000 minks, breeding animals to supply furriers on Mayor St. in Montreal and developing a feed formula he sold to Ralston Purina.
Another constant: passion for hockey. Since moving to Belleville in 1993, Cobb has billeted players – including Dan Cleary and Jonathan Cheechoo – for the OHL’s Bulls.
Cobb was living with a woman who helped him with dyslexia and following the Canadiens at a distance when he stumbled on Habs Inside/Out.
“My first post to the site, I didn’t even know how to use Spell Check,” he says.
There have been maybe 500 posts since – all knowledgeable, none a literary classic.
“I’d get up in the morning and go on Habs Inside/out,” he says, “and I didn’t know how to go on another site. I had a dictionary, my partner and everybody on the site giving me help.
“I didn’t have to look anyone in the eye and feel my face go red every time I screwed up a word. It was so exciting to be able to communicate.
“I learned to read and write on Habs Inside/out. There’s no doubt about it.”
Below: Gazette’s Allen McInnis photographs HIO founding contributors Sid Banerjee (left), Mike Boone (centre) and Dave Stubbs in the Canadiens dressing room in November 2006, for the launch of the website. The Habs loaned us all Alexander Perezhogin sticks, and we posed in front of the stalls of Mike Komisarek, Mathieu Dandenault, Craig Rivet and Sheldon Souray. Whatever…