On November 7, 2005, I registered DobberHockey.com as a domain and immediately transferred my web page over to the new url, effectively launching what would become the best damn fantasy hockey site on the Internet. Let's take a look back at what the site looked like over the years, some of the older features, and how the community has grown. You'll laugh, you'll cry, but mostly you'll just shake your head and wonder "what the hell was Dobber thinking?". But it brought us to where we are today.
Thank you Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow.
Yep, you heard me. Er, read me. Because - no lockout, no DobberHockey. Simple as that.
I was writing for The Hockey News since November of 2001 (and I still do today). The lockout, unfortunately, forced the publication to let some people go. They hung in there for a few months, but when the season was officially cancelled in late January of 2005, some cuts had to happen. Included in the cuts was their web editor. I still did weekly articles throughout the lockout, not wanting to lose my precious spot when the NHL returned, but I had to start submitting to Adam Proteau. When the NHL returned, I resumed my monthly Fantasy Rankings (yes, the one you still see today on THN and here). The problem was - Adam didn't know how to post them. I solved this by taking my free web page from my provider and posting them there. I then linked to them from each column I gave THN.
Traffic started to build, and I started tossing my thoughts up and archiving my THN columns there. Prior to the lockout, I had also been helping out with the Fantasy Sports Network and Pool Expert, and it was those guys (not the current owners, as they have since sold the business - but I'll give their new endeavor a plug: Filemobile.com) who encouraged me to get a domain. I tried to get dobber.com, but it was taken.
Here is an early look at this site back in late 2005/early 2006:
I was pretty polically incorrect back then. I know I brag that I am right now, but this is nothing like I was earlier. But now there are too many personalities from around the world who see what I write and get bent out of shape if I take too strong a stance on something pretty extreme. Here are some of my old "Dobber's Take" blog entries from four years ago.
Being an idiot in terms of graphic design, I did manage to gradually improve the look over the ensuing months. It was still pretty horrible, but better than it was...
I switched to using phpNuke in the fall of 2006, but I can't find uny images of it to show you. But it lasted about five months before Peter Belanger, my graphics designer at the time, designed the site you see here. DobberHockey 3.0 launched in late February, 2007 and introduced what would become the biggest purely fantasy hockey forum on the Internet.
The site grew in popularity, as you know. I added the Fantasy Prospect Rankings in 2006 and the Goalie Rankings in 2007. Columnists came, some of them went, but most have stayed on. Chris Burns was the first columnist on board. We haven't seen the last of him either (hint hint) - but you can find his hilarious older stuff right here. Matt Bugg came next in late 2006, and Jeff Angus soon after. Jim Gunther was the last of my "Original 4" (his stuff can also be found in the link above). I started contributing to The Fourth Period (thank you David Pagnotta), and I had some great support early on from Randy Steinman at the Fantasy Hockey Journal and Micah Williams at Hockey Trade Rumors, who actually launched the phpNuke era for me.I also got on board with the Score Hockey Forecaster, with a big thank you to Mario Prata and Gabriel Farnesi (follow him on Twitter here) for the opportunity - I've written for that magazine for five years now (I think), but I wrote some of their web content in my early years.
In October of 2007, I received a poor performance review at my day job as buyer/planner for Michel Germain. This was because I worked the minimal hours and spent my lunch researching and writing fantasy hockey for my site, and other sites. My moonlighting job was interfering with my day job. I was exhausted.
Still - because my boss wanted to put my raise on "hold" for six months, I was pissed off. The only things that stopped me from quitting on the spot was the fact that I had a wife - so major decisions had to be shared. But I don't put up with sideways - I either move up or I go somewhere else where I can move up. So I'm storming out of the office building and I run into Wade Belak. Yeah, him. At that time, I had never "run" into an NHL hockey player before. Anyway, my mind was elsewhere, but I did manage to stumble through some stupid small talk and give him my card. And that's how Wade Belak became a part of DobberHockey lore.
Anyway, I spoke to my wife and we determined that between her job, and what I made from the Forecaster, Pool Expert and my Guide sales, we could squeak by for a while. I could quit, and see how things grow for six months. That's what we agreed on. Six months.
Six months to convince the two of us that this thing can work. To sell a Midseason Guide and a Playoff Draft List, and see what kind of increase I can get.
My wife is phenomenal. The poor woman. She didn't know what hit her. Our first "date" was at Kelsey's, when the Leafs were on TV getting eliminated by the Flyers in April of 2003. So in the ensuing 28 months, she only had to put up with six months of hockey. She probably thought I was this attentive gentleman who was merely a passive hockey fan who contributed weekly articles to The Hockey News, and so she married me in 2005. Then the lockout ended and, like I said, she didn't know what hit her. All hockey, all the time. So for her to give me this shot is pretty amazing.
Anyway, I gave my notice and in November of 2007 DobberHockey became my full-time endeavor. The traffic continued to grow and Midseason Guides and Playoff Lists sold enough to buy me a few more months. I was still living off my wife...but at least I could contribute. You know, pay a bill or two.
That summer I cleared a million hits in a single month for the first time, and sold enough Fantasy Guides to make it official. This past October, 2010, we had 6 million hits. Today I have Jeff Angus as the site's manager, Glen Hoos as the graphics designer, and Matt Bugg and Russ Miller are senior writers. Ryan Ma never seems to miss a day, Ryan Van Horne too. Brent Lemon has been an awesome addition, Ian Fergusson's team audits have been stellar, and what can I say about Justin Goldman? A pioneer in the goaltending niche, and he got us rolling on Dobber Nation (later taken over by Andrew Walker - who was and is a true talent over on the FAN 960 now). Marty Kwiaton and Alessandro Seren Rosso have brought much needed content and complete what is a stellar team. I would also like to thank Dan Snyder and the DobberBaseball crew. And finally, the former writers for this site: Burns, Gunther, Stu McDonald, Eric Maltais, Steve Johnson (Notch), Dale McCarthy and Jacob Stettes (J Status). And how much did DobberHockey improve when Frozen Pool and Jason Arbuthnot came on board? Seriously? That tool is still the best fantasy hockey tool in the WORLD.
A special thank you to Rick "Shoeless" Wakeman, for being the best forum contributor the world has ever seen. Always polite, courteous and helpful - I don't know how he does it for 17,000 posts. But could the forum have grown as quickly without him? I don't think so. I really don't.
I know I used to joke about how I should be an NHL GM. But I would honestly turn down that job today, if anyone were crazy enough to offer it. I'm that happy with this one.
Thank you everyone for a dream come true.