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2nd HIO Habs Fan Summit Groundswell Gets The Ball Rolling

And what a ball it was the first time around!

As many readers here will recall, the Montreal Gazette sponsored Habs Inside Out fan site helped launch and promote a day for fans last season that went by the name HIO Habs Fan Summit. For the 40 or so Habs fans who took part in the day, it was a smashing good time that they will likely never forget. For a recap of last year's events, here is a link that will bring those unfamiliar with it up to date.

What I personally enjoyed best about the day, was how fans who latched onto the team after the 1986 or 1993 Cups mingled with folks like myself who caught the Habs virus with the 1970's dynasty or earlier 1960's and 1950's versions. In short, beyond basking in the glory of Habsland, the people, the fans, were the best part of the whole day. Many others have echoed those same sentiments.

You know those annual family reunion gatherings where you get reaquainted with a bunch of relatives you have little in common with? This is the opposite. Immediate strangers will feel like long lost friends 24 hours later. The day, oddly, has that effect on people.

Recently, some posters at HIO, including myself and regulars such as Ian Cobb, The Teacher, Yeats, DD, Chuck, Smart Dog, Grabbed The Cup and Connecticut Man1, began discussing what will be involved in this year's event. When it could happen? Who will be attending? What events could be planned for the day?

Especially important to the day, is which roles participants will take on to make the event run as smoothly as it did last year?

Jason Weiss, known as Jay In PA on the site, set the bar extremely high in co-ordinating many facets of this large undertaking last year. Jay had lots of solid help from friends at the site in many of the endeavors. He is passing the torch off this time, as committments have limited his participation to that of expert adviser. Presently, many are offering themselves up to fill his shoes and those of others who helped greatly.

In the last few days, there has been a groundswell of support to get the second Summit launched. The thinking is that once the 2008-09 schedule is released by the NHL in a matter of days, a Saturday night game in October or early November will be chosen. The reason for keeping the event early in the season is due to travel and weather concerns. Many attendees from the last Summit came from both coasts and down south in the states. In order to accomodate far away Habs fans, it is best to rule out the chances of inclement weather hampering their trip by choosing an early date.

As with the choosing of any date, it will unfortunately not be suitable for everyone that would wish to attend.

Until a game date is chosen, though, all plans are still in the formative stages.

The Habs Inside Out site, who were extremely pleased and proud of the reaction last year's event garnered, have yet to announce anything official in regards to their participation.

What has been discussed so far, has revolved around organizing ourselves and choosing which events to take part in. Ian Cobb, has stepped up to help co-ordinate the day's events, and has already gotten in contact with Rejean Houle, the president of the Canadiens oldtimers alumni, to see what can be offered to the group in terms of activities.

Connecticut Man1 has created a blog site where information and news will be shared, and Smart Dog and I may be assisting him with that end. Smart Dog, who will be coming in from Halifax, may also be helping set up accomodations for the out of towners. The site's link is here, in skeleton form for now. Please bookmark it you wish to keep track of things. There may also be a Facebook site that is kept private once things are up and running. This post at this site here will also have a sidebar link that will be accessible for updates whenever they come in.

Chuck, proudly hoisting a cup of Molson Ex below, has offered to help in the area of charities and fundraising. More on that in a bit.

HabsChick has offered to help co-ordinate events as well and may be helping out in the areas of tickets, tours, and hotels.

Many other fans at the site have offered their assistance as well. There has been no shortage of goodwill to make it happen.

At this stage, Mr Cobb is attempting to round everyone together to iron out the finer details of pulling this off. Ian prefers to conduct his business over the phone and will be scheduling a conference call with Jay Weiss shortly.

I have Ian's number to pass along, but I cannot publish it here. I can pass it along though. My e-mail at this site is realitycheck-time (AT) hotmail (DOT) com if you wish to get in touch.

Details on how everything is progressing will be updated here as often as is neccessary. Keep checking the sidebar.

If anyone is interested in helping out, attending, or has interesting ideas to share, I can be contacted via this blog's e-mail mentioned above.

Last October, the day's schedule began around noon when everybody met outside the Bell Centre. There were two guided Bell Centre tours that we received a great group rate on. I'm sure that will happen again. Those who've never taken one can see what it was all about at my blog link above. Speaking for myself, there is no way I wouldn't go on it again. There is just so much to see!

The Gazette then organized a group photo shot for the paper that is at the top of this post.

After the shoot, we all ate supper one block from the arena, before heading off to the game. After the game, most of us headed down to Hurley's pub for wobbly pops and munchies. The restaurant we chose last year might not have been prepared to handle a group our size. This time will be different and we might need a larger locale to suit our needs and give them time to get ready for a bunch of crazy, hungry Habs fans. One place mentioned for the meal was La Brasserie Brunoise, and it received some thumbs up support from posters. Other ideas are of course welcome.

One facet of last season's event that I missed out on was a donation to the Gainey Foundation. There was a jersey raffle with the proceeds going to the fund, that I thought was a very classy gesture. I thought that this was one thing we would not want to overlook this time around, and I starting thinking about some hockey memorabilia that I own that could go to that end.

I dropped this note off at HIO this afternoon, and it garnered a way more positive response than I imagined. Maybe it's because I am nuts, but I can't back out now. Here's what it involved:

"In regards to the Summit, I have an idea to raise some money for a donation to the Gainey Foundation. I have a collection of Wayne Gretzky cards - over 700 different ones from 1980 to 1995. There is no RC or second year, but I had the collection evaluated at about $2,200 about four years ago.

In my collection, there is the 50 cards Neilson cupcake set from 1982 in mint shape from an uncut sheet, and the 99 card set Upper Deck commemorative career retrospective that was put out in 1999. Also included is about 95% of his O-Pee-Chee cards. Other than cards, it includes Coke bottle cap liners, cereal box covers, and some limited edition stuff like the numbered 802 goal card. I spent a wack of money collecting it and I understand that I will never get a return value on it.

If it were to go to a good cause, I would be very happy about that, but I'd like to get something in return for it, say a couple of hundred bucks at the very least. I can understand that some might not agree that I profit from the raffle itself, but I did spend a decade collecting it. Maybe someone has ideas that could make all this work in a good way.

I think that if we were able to sell 50 or 60 tickets at ten bucks a crack we'd raise a nice little sum for the Gainey Foundation. The collection really is something to see. I'd imagine that whoever won it, could give it as a Christmas present to a young one and they would be blown away.

Let me know what you all think, pro and con, and we'll figure something out and make a good thing happen."

Soon after posting this, I received several thumbs ups for the idea, with others chipping in with other raffle ideas. I think making a donation to Gainey's fund is very appropriate. I'm a big believer in giving back.

One poster made some mention that a group raffle could involve a prize for all participants. That could be accomplished easily enough by having more fans add some Montreal Canadiens items into the raffle. To that end, if there is a way for Mr. Houle to get my 26 Guy Lafleur cards signed, I'll add them into the pot as well. Sorry, though, the RC Guy signed personally to me a decade ago is not up for grabs! Anyone is welcome to toss in a Habs related article of their choice to enable this idea to happen. No one is obliged to feel as though they have to, either. I just think it would be fun stuff if everybody got something out of this! No Habs fans shouldn't be a winner, right?

If anyone's isn't an active participant in the HIO chatter, don't let it disuade you from getting in on the day. You'll be amongst friends real fast as everyone there is as fanatical about the team as you surely are. Everyone's welcome and the more the merrier!

That's all for now Habs fans.

Keep checking back as this year's event rounds into shape.

Below are some select shots of the Gretzky collection being donated to the raffle.