I apologize for not seeing this sooner. I've been out of pocket for the last couple of weeks due to the loss of a family member and just got back tonight -- and I have to say seeing this thread brought a smile to my face. Technically the actual 'birth' of the site is September 15th, 1996 -- right around training camp for the 1996-97 season and at that stage it didn't even have a message board. It was started on GeoCities and consisted of the cheesiest of tiled ice backgrounds, a picture of Steve Yzerman saluting the crowd from the bench after scoring his 500th career goal on Patrick Roy and a bit of text about what I was planning on doing with the site.
I really wish I had some of the stuff from those first years. After a couple seasons on GeoCities the site moved to be one of a few fan sites on PuckPlace.com, then to a server that was hosted by the previous owners of HockeysFuture.com and then eventually to where it is now (and where it has remained for the bulk of those past 20 years.)
I started this place as a bored 17-year old living in the sticks in SE Michigan and it has followed me to college, marriage, a career and two beautiful daughters of 9 and 10 (!). It's been crazy. Life has gotten in the way often and I haven't been able to dedicate as much time as I'd like to the site (and I'm always saying I'm going to get refocused) -- so I really, really appreciate the comments here and the help the moderation team has provided over the years. It's invaluable.