Gerry Cosby, The Man Behind The Brand

By George Grimm

To many fans, a trip to Madison Square Garden isn’t complete without a stop at Cosby’s, the iconic sporting goods store. Cosby’s has long been considered the mecca, the place to buy Ranger jerseys, memorabilia and hockey equipment. But what about the man behind the brand? How did the name Gerry Cosby become synonymous with sporting goods?

Finton Gerard David Cosby was born in 1909 in Roxbury, Massachusetts and as a young man worked as an office boy and switchboard operator at the Boston Arena, the home of the Boston Tigers of the Canadian-American Hockey League.  One day in 1928, Eddie Powers the manager of the Tigers, fired their netminder because his drinking had made him too unreliable and asked Gerry, who was 19 at the time, to be their practice goaltender. Keep in mind that Gerry had never played hockey, let alone goal in his life, but he went down to the Tigers’ dressing room and gamely donned the pads and oversized skates, willing to give it a shot.

On the ice, however, Gerry’s eagerness couldn’t hide his inexperience and he expected the Tigers to bring in another goalie for their next practice. But Powers asked him to come back the next day and try it again and he played a little better. His play continued to improve each day and in time Gerry had a steady job as the Tigers’ practice netminder.

The Boston Bruins also practiced in the Arena and Gerry caught the eye of Art Ross their GM and Coach and he was soon seeing double-duty as the practice netminder for both teams.  Remember, this was back in the days when teams usually carried only one netminder, so having a reliable practice goaltender was a necessity. And although Gerry was not getting paid for any of these practice sessions, he was gaining valuable experience and being mentored by Bruins netminder Tiny Thompson, a future Hall of Famer.

In 1932 Gerry toured Europe with a group of American hockey players that was organized by Bruins’ president Walter Brown. A year later the United States entered a team in the World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia with Gerry as their goaltender. Amazingly, after playing the position for only five years, he posted four consecutive shutouts against Switzerland, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria and then beat a heavily favored Canadian team 2-1 in overtime for the championship. It marked the first time that a Canadian team had been defeated in the World Championship games.

Gerry then moved to New York to take a job as a runner on Wall Street, but he didn’t want to give up on his hockey career. So he called Rangers’ General Manager and Coach Lester Patrick and asked him if he could skate with the team and wound up becoming their practice goaltender.

Cosby then went to England to play for the Wembley Lions in the English Hockey League where he was voted the MVP of the league and also managed to attend business college in his spare time. A year later he was invited to play on the United States Olympic team but declined because he had just gotten a new job with Stewart Iglehart’s construction business.

During the late 1930’s and early 40’s Gerry was a very busy guy, seeing duty as the backup netminder for the New York Rovers, the Rangers Eastern League affiliate, as well as serving as the practice goaltender for both the Rangers and the New York Americans. Then during World War II when many players from all levels of hockey were overseas, Cosby was often called upon to tend goal for the Boston Olympics as well as the Rovers in the same week.

Gerry’s involvement in the sporting goods business began while he was with the Rovers, when GM and Coach Tom Lockhart asked him to order some sticks. He was able to find a company called Lovell Manufacturing, in Erie, Pa. that made hockey sticks, mouse traps and washing machine parts and ordered six dozen at a good price. The sticks were delivered, Lockhart and the players liked them and soon Gerry was placing orders for gloves and pads and the rest as they say is history.

Cosby started getting orders from other teams in the Eastern Hockey League as well as the Rangers and the Americans. When he ran out of space in a store he had opened adjacent to his York Avenue apartment, he moved to a larger place at 12 West 48th Street, near Rockefeller Center.

Gerry briefly entered into a partnership with three other athletic suppliers but after a stint in the army as a pilot trainer, he once again assumed total control of the business. By this time Cosby’s was a respected supplier of equipment and uniforms for all sports to the pros, colleges and high schools as well as the general public and a larger store was needed.

A chance encounter with William Jennings at Gerry’s son Michael’s football game led to him asking the Rangers President about a vacant store adjacent to the old Madison Square Garden on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 50th Street. When Jennings told him it was available Gerry drove down from Massachusetts the following Monday morning to sign the lease for the store which opened in 1959.

Gerry often said that the 50th Street store was his favorite. Being so close to the Garden was good for business and good for the Rangers who were frequent visitors, especially when a new batch of sticks came in.  “They didn’t have room upstairs in the Garden to keep the sticks”, Michael Cosby recalled, “so when the Northland sticks came in the players would come in and we had a big rack in the back and they would go pick out the ones they liked.”  Former Ranger Dick Duff also recalled the store fondly; “The guys were always good to us in the Cosby’s store down in the old Madison Square Garden. It was a nice store, nice family and they loved hockey”.

And then in 1968 when the Rangers and Knicks moved into the New Garden on 33rd street and Seventh Avenue, Cosby’s moved along with them, first to a street level location outside Penn Station then into a space in the Garden’s Esplanade. Today they are located at 11 Penn Plaza about half a block from the Garden. There is also a store and warehouse in Sheffield, Massachusetts, where most of the merchandise is designed, manufactured and distributed.

I have a lot of fond personal memories of Cosby’s.  The old Garden location reminded me of a men’s clothing store except with jerseys and team jackets instead of suits and sports jackets and skates instead of shoes. In a way, Cosby’s gave us a playground for our childhood dreams because with all of the hockey equipment lined up along the wall it was very easy to imagine yourself pulling on a jersey and skating on the Garden’s ice next door. I used to go in and look around and after a while Gerry came to recognize me and waved hello. I even applied for a job there when I was in my early teens. I was probably too young to work at the time but Gerry’s son Michael took me in the office and interviewed me.  I didn’t get the job, but it was an experience I’ll never forget.

One Saturday I was in the store by the old Garden and saw Jim Neilson, trying on a pair of sneakers. I recognized “The Chief” right away and gathered up all the courage a 13-year old could muster and asked him for his autograph. He was very nice and signed my scrap of paper. I told him it was nice to meet him and he said thanks. My friend Tom, who was usually the more bold and boisterous of the two of us, was awestruck and managed to say, “me too”.

A few years later I was in the street level store by the new Garden and saw Muzz Patrick talking to another gentleman. I went over and shook Muzz’s hand and he introduced me to Johnny Wilson another former Ranger. They both signed a card for me and Muzz seemed especially happy to be recognized.

And then one afternoon I was in the store in the Garden’s Esplanade and heard a familiar voice. I turned around and it was Downtown Julie Brown from MTV fame. You never knew who you were going to meet when you went to Cosby’s.

During the late 1980’s – early 90’s when I was publishing SportStat… The Rangers Report, I asked Michael to buy a yearly advertisement that I placed over the Rangers schedule on the back page. To me, having that Cosby’s logo associated with my newsletter gave it instant credibility and it looked pretty good too. I would have ran that ad for nothing.

Gerry was an innovator. He redesigned hockey jerseys to allow equipment to be worn comfortably underneath. He also added padding to hockey gloves and designed adjustable size and suspension features for helmets. He added Velcro straps to hockey pads and worked with stick manufacturer to create laminated stick shafts and fiberglass wrapped blades.

Sadly, Gerry Cosby passed away in 1996. He was inducted posthumously into the International Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in April of 1997 for his outstanding goaltending in International play.

Gerry Cosby’s legacy is one of quality, service and integrity and it is being carried on proudly by his son Michael and his grandchildren Christy and Matthew. Now in their eighth decade, Cosby’s has provided quality equipment and service as well as memories to countless generations of fans with many more to come.

George Grimm is the former publisher of Sportstat… The Ranger Report and columnist for the Blueshirt Bulletin. He currently writes the Retro Rangers column for Insidehockey.com and his book about the Emile Francis Era Rangers “We Did Everyhing But Win” will be published in September 2017.

328 thoughts on “Gerry Cosby, The Man Behind The Brand”

  1. Our pathetic, uninspired loss to the Islanders three weeks ago should have told this management that bad karma was in residence. They wait until yesterday? And even yesterday is a very small bandage on a large wound.

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  2. Thank you sir for such a great read. Fond memories of visiting Cosby’s and looking at the sweaters and gear.

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  3. No problem with Clendo going out, as his brief moment of looking better was snuffed out with some poor play. Tremendous problem with Glass going in, even if it’s for Puempel, who I don’t care for as a player.

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  4. Thought I would re-post this it has been on my mind since the Glass call-up. Two of the coaches responsibilities is to prepare and motivate his players. If he needs to bring up an over the hill AHL tough guy to do the motivating he shouldn’t be coaching.

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  5. if 21, 93, 13, 36, 20, 10, 61, 26, etc. don’t get going, and if 18, 22 etc. don’t start defending better around the net, it doesn’t matter if they’re soft or tough, doesn’t matter if they had Shattenkirk or Ott, Glass or Puempel.

    and 30 still has some games that are pretty meh, even if he’s stupendous once in a while.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great read ..thx…remember going up to Gerry Cosby’s as a kid …they had best stick selection…also a Cosby brand with a blade curved like a banana

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  7. Agreed Pirri and Puempel have not stepped up but doubt Glass stays in lineup as team gets healthy…guessing panic will subside after Rangers win tonight

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  8. Evrockriser you going to the game tonight? I thought about going but fighting the Howard Franklin traffic to watch them get thrashed just dosen’t seem with it.

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  9. My take: Players will generally like to have Glass around, but will not play any harder/better with him around. If they play harder, it will only be because management is sending a (paltry) message about their (very inadequate) compete level.

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  10. Spoke to some players yesterday, coos. And they love having Glass in the lineup. Neanderthal thinking, perhaps. But that’s how/what players think.

    We all know Glass won’t deter squat. Maybe the player don’t agree with that. But we can rest assured the players feel better with him in uniform.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pirri could turn into a veritable beast tonight, knowing that Glass will take over for him no matter what happens. 🙂

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  12. Their compete level has sucked for, what, 11 of the last 12 periods? Maybe 10 of 12? Their execution has absolutely stunk. Their power play is god-awful (they were practicing it yesterday, with the same five guys, with zero penalty killers on the ice, and still had three PP skaters above the circles, which can’t work).

    You can say they were outmuscled badly in all four, and you won’t be wrong. But if they executed and competed, they probably don’t lose three of the four, with the one win stolen by the goalie.

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  13. It was interesting to read Step’s comments about playing more physical and then AV not saying anything about it. They have to be tougher to play against. The puck has been in their zone for 75% of these games.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think most players, probably at any pro level, but certainly at this one, feel good having at least a couple tough guys somewhere in the lineup because they think themselves entitled that management should provide that for them.

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  15. don’t have to lose Carp …its already Tanner Glass’s fault according to the chart-boys..but they are but they are spreading the love to include AV and and now Gorton

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  16. Hayes: “Hey Zook, there’s a NY Times Crossword puzzle in the urinal. Either we traded for Moops or Glasser is back.”

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  17. Now playing at your local theaters: THE HOMBRE.

    John Wayne as Tanner Glass, speaking to ranchhand: “Looks like the girls need a little help up there at the main ranch.”

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  18. If TB scores three or more goals tonight, Ensure will hand out free six packs to anyone who brings their used game ticket to canasta night beginning in the clubhouse at 1pm tomorrow

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  19. that was an awesome read. i used to love how cosby’s had all the equipment bins and the goalie pads hanging in the back. thats what made cosby’s magical to me, felt like i was in the rangers locker room or something.

    and so i see Doodie is the wizard of oz here huh….. haha thats awesome. bizzaro world. 😉

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  20. haha god ive missed this place. Carp your the man. So i see from the comments the Rangers have been sucking again. Not the best time to be sucking. Guys breathing sighs of relief after the trade deadline passed? Playing and getting beaten by better teams? President Trophy AV’s game getting stymied again as stakes get higher and the hockey gets tighter? Last game I watched was against Ottawa. They looked good in coming back in that game.

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  21. I don’t whether to feel good about tonight’s game or great about tonight’s game?

    Imma go with good.

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  22. Great post. I fondly remember as a kid driving by Cosby’s store up in Sheffield en route to my cousin’s house in Great Barrington. We used to play pickup at the rink at the Berkshire School where my Uncle was a faculty member. I was always confounded how the shops could have been in two such distinct places (young & dumb I know!). The family should sue Cindy if she tries to open a hockey store.
    LGR!!!

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  23. You can laugh and exercise wit on Glass whatever you want (easy thing to do in case), but I like the guy. Not a biggest hockey talent but huge heart and epitome of team player.

    Liked by 4 people

  24. Rangers really trying to show energy and do what AV has been telling them

    Let’s see if they can keep it up for a period or game

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  25. Rangers finding ways to not score–deep slump in that department, hands like boa constrictors. Buch the LAST guy I’d expect to have all that time and not bother picking a corner.

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  26. Love these. Can stop watching and type away on Boneheads. Which team will get the crucial emotional lift that will tell the puck whose side God is on? Clown show. Is it over yet?

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  27. Hard to say just yet. Looks like both teams are playing hockey, neither lifted… wait, a stupid penalty? “Glass Fight Inspires Rangers to Take Stupid Penalty.”

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  28. Good news is this team has picked up its intensity and is playing like it gives a rats arse. The outcome of this game is less important than playing hard and as a team.

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  29. Can’t score, but at least they’re doing the far more important thing, having each other’s backs. “I say, old chap, would you have my back for me? Ah, excellent. Cheers.”

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  30. I’m gonna be 5 rows behind the goal for tomorrow night’s game. I’ll be able to see Lundqvist’s flaws up close. Luckily that’s for only one period.

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  31. The Rangers have had huge difficulty this season winning on the road, so, yeah, change it up. OK, I get it–they have few viable options– but taking Puempel out is somewhat meaningless if all you have is Glass to put in. And replacing Gerund with Kampfer? Wow, game-changer. But what the hell, I hope Happy sets up Snifter for the winning goal.

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  32. Just dreadful pay one the defensive zone. Only thing good was when Raanta was out of the net and lost sight of it and a ranger covered for him. Finally he got someone to pay him back.

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  33. Nope, not getting the A5 reference. Slow, I guess. In the meantime, a little piece of me dies every time I see Glass out there trying to keep up. Almost feel bad for the guy until I remember: he’s in The Show–must have the best agent in the history of the game.

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  34. Re: the bad angle shot: that’s a new thing a lot of shooters are going for this year. From that position, there is usually some space high on the short side on goaltenders who play in the reverse V-H

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  35. Refs calling everything in the book but can probably club someone over the head and get 2 minutes though

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  36. Beer through the nose on your Kreider-thing, RR2. And not only was a thing, he was The thing. Maybe he’s hurt. That said, he’s quietly heading for his best numbers. Hope he’ll turn it on in the playoffs.

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  37. Be glad its Auntie in nets tonight and not Shampoo Boy. Rangers can’t buy a goal, Nash especially. Its setting up nicely for Tanner to be the savior! Greasy goal

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  38. The worst thing, to me, about this injury spate is not that it’s brought the galumphing Glass back into the viewfinder. His 4-5 minutes have been relatively benign. It’s that Pirri thinks (correctly I’m afraid) that his spot is safe.

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  39. Grab that point with all available claws and orifices. Great accomplishment in these lousy circumstances. Raanta, Nash and Skjei for me. Now for the Ice Capades!

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  40. What a performance by Auntie! I am the biggest Hank fan there is, but if I was AV I’d consider going with Antti tomorrow and resting Hank for a few more days. And I am
    more and more convinced that we are going to say goodbye to Antti in the expansion draft. He has been superb all season.

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  41. I figured that Carp. Just thought Antti was so on fire that it might make sense to go back to him then go the regular rotation with the rest of the back to backs.

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  42. AV at Presser, fourth year into NY job, picking at wedgie: “And you are….?”

    “Brooks, coach. Larry, NY Post.”

    “Oh, that’s you. I was wondering which one was Brooks.”

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  43. How more of these college basketball coaches don’t have heart attacks on the sidelines is baffling to me.

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  44. Watch me now…
    I can mash potatoes
    I can do the twist
    Well, now tell me baby
    Do you like it like this?
    Tell me, tell me, tell me…

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  45. Whew! A step in the right direction. Had eachother’s backs. More energy. Some timely saves. I liked the new D pairings. Smith looked more comfortable on 2nd pair. Power play showed a some signs of life, but not there yet. Hopefully tomorrow they’ll pick up where they left off and take the next step.

    Still need to get some goal production from guys like Nash, Kreider, Zuch and Stepan. Keep working like tonight and it’ll start clicking.

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  46. Nobody better than you at writing about this team Carp. If you wind up writing about golf or the Filth in Philly or Fish Tanks, (God forbid!) or whatever else, some fans are going to be lucky to read your stuff, but I’m selfishly hoping you can stick with the Rangers!

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Thank you so much, Ohh. I will search for a place where I can write about the Rangers. Golf would be my second choice, but distant second. If neither of those, I’m probably filling out applications at the Post Office or Starbucks. No chance I’m going to another city, nor do I have any interest in commuting to Brooklyn, Newark, etc.

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  48. George – Cosby’s also had a store in Westbury, Long Island. Spent many a day riding my bike a few miles just to look at the equipment i couldn’t afford with my measly paper route money. Very fond memories of that store. Was never able to get those “pro-level” ranger gloves I wanted, but did get my first ranger jersey there. #8 Steve Vickers, was not the pro level jersey but my first Ranger jersey just the same. Unfortunately, that store closed many years ago. Thanks for the article George and the fond memories it brought back.

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  49. Carp – loved the 226 post regarding Zika and Pirri practicing missing the net along with Stpehans stopping puck. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Thats the Ranger PP. Nobody stands in front, the few shots they take usually go wide or high. I’s maddening to watch their PP. Personally, I would give 4th line a chance, can’t do much worse. Simplify it, pucks to net, crash the net and you may score. What would you do to improve the PP?

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Good morning, boneheads!
    Much better effort, much higher intensity level. The result? 2 points. And taking one point away from Tampa is a bonus.
    Looks like they finally found the R sided partner to play with Ryan McDonagh. His name is….Ryan McDonagh.

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  51. Tanner Glass 2.0 is 1-0
    Granted, last night’s competition was a notch below what we saw at ZmSG all week, but Why do they manage to do so much more on the road?
    Are their wives distracting pains in the Anisimov?

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  52. From my point of view it was nice to see the intensity regarding the rangers but lets face the fact that if Raanta doesn’t stand on his head the rangers don’t get 2 points. The rangers don’t generate much offense either on the PP or 5 on 5 and when they do they either miss the net, fan on a shot or shoot it right into the goalies bread basket. I’m really looking forward to the off season to see what Gorton will do with this roster.

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  53. There is a long term problem with Glass being here. AV is going to play him. So when Fast is back, he is going to be playing top 9. We have all seen that before. He’s not good enough to do it. Chances are Buchnevich sits while Glass plays.

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  54. “Glasser’s fight was huge,” J.T. Miller said. “It was an awesome fight for us and for him, too. It was inspirational for us to see that.

    For a guy that is pretty universally dissed in the commetariat, Glass gets a ton of respect in the room.

    I think when the Jesper is back that it will be Pirri going upstairs. Our Russian kid will stay as long as he plays the way he did past two games and not the prior ones.

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  55. It would be utter insanity to plug Glass into the line-up more than every once in a while for his 5 in the box and 5 on the ice. AV loves the guy, but he’s not insane, and Glass can’t fight every night anyway. And I’m sure the guys love him–he’s been their teammate for a while–but he had ZERO impact on the game last night. I might argue that they lost a little momentum following the fight, but that would be to imply it had any effect at all other than to entertain fans who enjoy fighting. Keep him around, by all means, until the guys get healthy, but you don’t need to play him that much.

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  56. George I really enjoyed your article…I remember myDad taking me into Cosby’s at the old garden up on 5oth when i was a kid..loved all the stuff in there..then he took me every game we went to inside Cosby’s for a pennant or something each game..great memoried as I got older and was playing I remember having to make the trek down to paragon’s on 16th for my gear because Cosby’s was just too expensive for me…

    Like

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