City Sports: Memorial recognizes a winner
Six days after its boys' hockey team defeated city rival Manchester Central for the state Division I championship, Manchester Memorial High held an assembly to celebrate the achievement.
From a podium in the school gym, head coach Mark Putney addressed the school's students and faculty while his team sat on the floor before him. Among the group was sophomore Chris Reynolds.
Reynolds doesn't skate for the Crusaders - his cerebral palsy prevents that - but he's been a key member of the team for two seasons.
As a freshman, he approached Putney about serving as a team manager but was disappointed to learn that Memorial had two manager positions and both traditionally went to senior girls. Seeing the look on Reynolds' face, Putney quickly came up with an idea: The freshman could serve as team statistician. Smiling broadly, Reynolds accepted the position.
In addition to having him keep track of how many shots the Crusaders and their opponents took and how many were on net, Putney had Reynolds chart where the shots came from. Such information would be vital to making in-game adjustments and game-to-game improvements.
Dedicating himself to the task, Reynolds was with the Crusaders throughout the season, home and away. He never missed a game.
The rest of the team noticed. Players took Reynolds under their wings, Putney said, and when the season ended, they all signed a team jersey and presented it to their freshman statistician.
More honors followed.
Most (but not all) years at its annual meeting, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association presents the Walter A. Smith Award in recognition of "an individual or individuals who have overcome special circumstances and contributed significantly and positively to New Hampshire athletics as a player, manager, or fan." In 2012, the NHIAA presented two such awards. One went to Reynolds.
By the time the 2012-13 season rolled around, Reynolds was a well-established member of the Memorial program, and when the Crusaders won the title last month at Verizon Wireless Arena, he was part of the team's celebration.
When the NHIAA distributed championship medals during the postgame ceremony, however, there weren't enough for Reynolds to receive one.
Which brings us back to the assembly at Memorial High. With the entire school looking on, Putney summoned Reynolds to join him at the podium.
We'll let the coach take it from here.
"I had the (NHIAA) medal around my neck, took it off and presented it to Christopher," Putney said. "He didn't know ahead of time that he was going to get a medal, which made the moment special. The student body applauded him loudly, and Christopher just had this proud look on his face. You had to be there to see it."
Now the whole school knew what Putney and his players had known about Reynolds for two seasons: "He's just a great kid to have on the team."
A week after the assembly, the Manchester Monarchs honored the Crusaders by making them the American Hockey League team's guests at a game against the Hershey Bears. Memorial's four captains were invited to center ice for a pregame ceremony, and one of their teammates dropped the ceremonial first puck: Reynolds.
It was an unforgettable conclusion to a most memorable season.
"And the good news looking ahead," Putney said, "is Christopher will continue to be our team statistician for the next two years."
"City Sports" appears Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib @firstname.lastname@example.org.