Jim Fennell: 'Teammates' reunite in Manchester
NATHAN POTVIN saw the news of Chris Huxley's arrival with the Manchester Monarchs and wasted no time getting in touch with him. After all, they used to be teammates.
Huxley was the captain of the Harvard men's ice hockey when Potvin became an honorary member of the team two years ago. Nathan was 12 at the time and commuting from his home in Hooksett to Boston for chemotherapy.
Potvin was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor usually found in the brain when he was 5, and it's been a battle ever since. The tumor almost left him paralyzed. He has gone through surgery, his spine realigned and titanium staples inserted. The tumor started growing again when he was 12 and it was back to Boston for more chemotherapy.
This was a kid who could use some support and that's what he got through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (friendsofjaclyn.org), an organization that connects sports teams with kids and their families affected by pediatric brain tumors, Potvin was matched with the Harvard hockey team.
He went to their games, had a locker with his name on it and even joined the team for a pre-game skate. The players visited Nathan at the hospital and kept in touch with him through texts and emails. The Friends of Jaclyn even arranged for Nathan's younger sisters to be adopted by the Harvard softball team.
Being part of the team made those trips to Boston better. And there are relationships that last to this day. The Harvard sweater he used to wear constantly is a little small now, but he has not outgrown his friendship with several of the players.
So, when Huxley joined the Monarchs, Potvin quickly got in touch and the two got to catch up. Nathan's now a freshman at Central High and is on the hockey team, one of only three freshmen to make the team.
The Little Green are seeded second in the Division I tournament andPotvin, a forward, dressed for 13 of the teams' 18 games, scoring one goal and assisting on four others. Not a bad freshman year. Huxley was impressed, but then again, not as impressed as what he has already seen the kid do.
"Not sure it's the same as beating cancer," Huxley said.
Nathan was able to catch a Monarchs game after Huxley joined the team and Huxley said he hopes his schedule works out so he can see one of Central's playoff games.
Huxley said he and his Harvard teammates weren't sure what to expect when they first connected with Nathan, but it soon became clear.
"You hope you help someone out as much as possible, but I think everyone one of us got something out of it," Huxley said. "It put a lot of things in perspective."
Connie Potvin, Nathan's mom, said the relationship her kids developed with the hockey and softball players at Harvard made a huge difference in their lives. Nathan has been down to Harvard this year, but he doesn't get to go as often because of his own hockey games. That's a good thing.
Connie Potvin said it was a great day when Nathan found out he had made the Central hockey team.
"It's an amazing feeling. I'm so proud of him," Connie said. "And I'm so thankful he's been able to experience it."
E-mail Jim Fennell at firstname.lastname@example.org.