John Habib's City Sports: Coliseum awaits Memorial banner
High school hockey fans witnessed history last March when, for the first time, two Manchester public schools played for a state title. The NHIAA Division I championship was decided 3 minutes 21 seconds into overtime on a goal by Adam Tack, who lifted Manchester Memorial to a 3-2 win over Manchester Central at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Once the Crusaders skated the championship plaque around the ice, all that remained to conclude the celebration was the Manchester high school hockey tradition of hoisting a banner at JFK Coliseum.
Eight months have passed since the championship game, and the Crusaders still don't have a banner to hoist. That's about to change, Memorial coach Mark Putney said this week, and he should know; he's the one paying for the flag.
Ordinarily, Putney said, the team's booster club would foot the bill, but the club already dug deep to purchase championship rings for the team. A fundraiser at Billy's Sports Bar & Grille helped, too, and the players received the rings during the postseason team banquet.
"I'm not about to ask our booster club for any more money," said Putney. "I'm definitely going to buy it myself."
Putney said he hopes to raise the banner, which will cost somewhere between $150 and $200, during the Bauer Christmas Hockey Tournament.
A former Memorial player himself, Putney has a deep appreciation for the historical significance of the 2013 championship.
The Crusaders and Little Green had played against each other since 1961, when Memorial opened with a student body comprising mostly former Central pupils, and both teams had enjoyed some success, especially in the past three decades. Memorial had been to five championship games and won three. Central had won its only title game, back in 1981.
Putney knows the teams' meeting last March was special.
"I hope I'm wrong, but we probably won't see Memorial playing Central in the state hockey finals for a long time," he said. "It obviously doesn't happen very often. Last year's championship game was special because it was Memorial and Central."
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WITH THE high school hockey season set to open two weeks from Monday, Putney already has set the tone for his team.
Despite having lost 11 players from last year's team — nine to graduation, one to prep school, one to junior hockey — Putney said, "I've already told my team we're not in a rebuilding mode."
Putney last month attended the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey banquet, during which longtime Concord High coach Duncan Walsh was honored, in large part for the four straight championships his teams won from 1996-99.
"It made an impression on me," the Memorial coach said. "I told my team we're here to win another state title this year, and if anyone thinks we're rebuilding, they don't belong here."
That said, the Crusaders will have lots of new faces in key roles this season. Along with the nine players Memorial lost to graduation, it will be without defenseman Bryan Syrene, now a member of the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, and forward Brendan Sullivan, who transferred to Hebron Academy in Maine.
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THE aforementioned Bauer Christmas Hockey Tournament is scheduled for Dec. 26-29 at the JFK. Eight teams will play three games over the first three days, with a two-division format grouping Hanover, Concord, Memorial and Bedford in one bracket and Central, Trinity, Goffstown and Merrimack in the other. A total of four games will be played during the first three days of the tournament beginning at 2 p.m. the day after Christmas.
The second-place teams in each division after the three-game round robin will compete in the consolation game at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 29. The finals between the two division winners will follow at 7:30.
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ONE OF the former Central football players noted in last week's column as longtime participants in the Little Green Gridiron Club wants to be sure that other members instrumental in the club's founding get credit as well.Steve Schubert — cited along with his brother, Jim, and Ron Lavigne as the type of members Geno Brown and other young alumni hope to emulate — said credit also goes to Dick Bozoian, John Davis, Dr. Mike Murphy, Dick Boisvert, Don Winterton, Stephen Grzywacz and Gerry Tautkus.
"Thanks to them, we've raised close to $250,000 since the club's inception in 1989," Steve Schubert said. "Through my golf tournament, our annual carnival and generous donations from the public, we were able to provide college-bound students with scholarships, build a weight room and pay for other stuff the Central football team couldn't afford.
"I'm extremely happy to see a younger generation of Central graduates are getting involved with the club," he added. "It's a wonderful way of giving back to the school and community."
"City Sports" appears Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at firstname.lastname@example.org.