Proud Mary keeps HI/O Sum­mit alive — in Ot­tawa

Montreal Gazette - - SPORTS - STU COWAN in Ot­tawa scowan@post­media.com twit­ter.com/ StuCowan1

You could call this story: How Mary Saved the HI/O Sum­mit.

The first HI/O Sum­mit was held in 2007, bring­ing to­gether a small group of pas­sion­ate Cana­di­ens fans who fol­low the team on the Mon­treal Gazette’s hock­eyin­sid­e­out.com web­site for a game at the Bell Cen­tre.

It had grown every year since with as many as 200 Cana­di­ens fans at­tend­ing from across North Amer­ica and beyond. It even­tu­ally turned into a week­end-long event with a meet-and-greet Fri­day night at a Mon­treal ho­tel, a break­fast and tour of the Bell Cen­tre Satur­day, along with a pre-game din­ner and post-game drinks at a down­town bar. The HI/O group also held a char­ity raf­fle to raise some money for the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens Chil­dren’s Foun­da­tion.

But it looked like this year’s HI/O Sum­mit wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen af­ter or­ga­nizer Ian Cobb be­came frus­trated with an in­abil­ity to re­serve enough tick­ets for the group with the Cana­di­ens as he had done in pre­vi­ous years. At first Cobb said the Cana­di­ens wanted his group to buy one pre-sea­son game ticket for every reg­u­lar-sea­son ticket. Since most mem­bers of the HI/O group don’t live in Mon­treal, that didn’t work.

Cobb, a 73-year-old re­tired busi­ness­man and life­long Cana­di­ens fan who lives in Belleville, Ont., even­tu­ally de­cided it was time to just scrap the HI/O Sum­mit.

And then along came Mary. Mary McGill is a 60-year-old life­long Cana­di­ens fan who lives in Ot­tawa and had at­tended the last three HI/O Sum­mits in Mon­treal. She got in touch with the Sen­a­tors to see if she could re­serve about 20 tick­ets for Mon­day’s game.

“I was just re­ally bummed that it wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen this year, so I de­cided to do some­thing,” she said.

McGill started ask­ing peo­ple on the HI/O web­site if they’d be in­ter­ested in go­ing to a game in Ot­tawa and Mon­day night a group of just over 20 sat to­gether in Sec­tion 326 at the Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre, pay­ing $87 per ticket to watch the Cana­di­ens play the Sen­a­tors, keep­ing the HI/O Sum­mit alive for another year.

Liz McIn­tosh, a Cana­di­ens fan liv­ing in Toronto, drove to Ot­tawa to take part in the sum­mit for the first time. She had never met McGill in per­son be­fore, only com­mu­ni­cat­ing with her through the web­site.

“The tick­ets were very rea­son­able, so I thought, ‘why not?’ ” McIn­tosh said Mon­day while sit­ting with the HI/O group for a pre-game meal at a pub near the Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre. “I had never at­tended one be­fore, but I had heard about them.”

McGill said she was hop­ing to get more peo­ple to at­tend, but the fact the new sum­mit plans were put to­gether quickly and the game was on a Mon­day night didn’t help. Plus it wasn’t in Mon­treal.

“I just like the whole sum­mit at­mos­phere,” McGill said. “I live in Ot­tawa and there’s a few Habs fans here ... not that many. But when you get to Mon­treal and you get in the city and around all the fans and the vibe of the city, it was just so much fun. It’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to be the same here in Ot­tawa, but this is a re­ally nice bunch of peo­ple.”

Sit­ting across from McGill at the pre-game meal was her hus­band Bruce, proudly wear­ing a Sen­a­tors jersey. When asked if he has tried to con­vert his wife into a Sen­a­tors fan, Bruce said: “No ... never go­ing to hap­pen. It’s the other way around.

“When we play each other, some­body goes to bed an­gry,” he added with a laugh.

Mary grew up in Mon­treal be­fore her fam­ily moved to On­tario in the 1970s. She said her ear­li­est Cana­di­ens mem­ory dates back to when she was a young teenager and the Cana­di­ens beat the Bos­ton Bru­ins in the play­offs and her par­ents put the kids in the car and drove to the air­port to greet the play­ers when they got home.

“I had one of those au­to­graph books that a lot of girls my age had,” she re­called. “I got au­to­graphs from Jean Béliveau, Ken Dry­den, Pete Ma­hovlich and Guy La­pointe. And I re­mem­ber watch­ing Béliveau and the women would come up and put their ba­bies in front of him and he would kiss them. I thought it was such an odd thing to do as a 14-year-old. But I still re­mem­ber that like it was yes­ter­day.”

Cobb said he’s think­ing about or­ga­niz­ing the HI/O Sum­mit again next year and bring­ing it back to Mon­treal, say­ing he learned the prob­lems he had get­ting tick­ets to the Bell Cen­tre this year had to do with new staff there.

Mary was hop­ing for a Cana­di­ens win Mon­day to help make this year’s sum­mit a suc­cess.

“I think they’re a bet­ter team than how they’re play­ing,” she said be­fore the game. “I think (An­drei) Markov was a big loss. But I just watch the games and try to en­joy it … I try not to take it too se­ri­ously.”

There’s some­thing about Mary.

HI/O Sum­mit-go­ers Mary McGill, who or­ga­nized this year’s event, and Ian Cobb were among those in at­ten­dance Mon­day in Ot­tawa.

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