New Gym
The new Putnam High School gym was dedicated last week. It is about 1200 square feet larger with almost double the occupancy of the old gym. Bottom row, left to right: Kyle Leeman, mayor and past coach Tony Falzarano, Stacy Belliveau, Lindsay Roberts, Kiona Hazzard, Superintendent of Schools, William Hull, Building Committee Chair, Paul Cotnoir, Dan Porrcic, high school AD Adam Mielniczuk. Top row: BOE Chair, Michael Morrill, State Senator Mae Flexer, former coach Pamela Childs, former high school AD, Pat Devine,  Laurie St. Jean, Tom Espinosa, Putnam Rec Director, Willie Bousquet, Colin Purdon and Dino Porcic. Courtesy photo.
By Ron P. Coderre
This week’s RPC shoutout is sent along to former Putnam Clipper lineman Joe Mrakovich.  Tough as nails, he was a bulldog on defense for some of the best Putnam football teams of the 1950s.
The Town of Putnam and the Putnam school system ceremoniously christened its sparkling new gymnasium with a touch of nostalgia peppered in despite an obvious lack of the history that was the “old” Putnam gym.  The ceremony appropriately included administrators William Hull, Jacqueline Vetrovic and Adam Mielniczuk as well as a sprinkling of politicos, Michael Morrill, Paul Cotnoir, Mayor Tony Falzarano and State Senator Mae Flexer.  The evening lacked a reference to the past that made the history of Putnam boys and girls basketball what it is today.
Granted, there were some former athletes on hand in the person of 10-letter winner Maurice “Moe” Coderre who sang the National Anthem, and former players Kyle Leeman, Tom Espinosa, Dino Porcic, Colin Purdon and Laurie St. Jean.  The two coaches with the most victories in Putnam basketball history, Pam Childs and Falzarano, saluted the new facility.  Combined, Falzarano and Childs account for more than 1000 basketball victories.
Sitting in the bleachers with other alums, memories of special moments in the “old” gym flashed back to the days of Athletic Director George W. St. Marie and coach Jim Greenhalgh.  Photos of the past as vivid as if they occurred only yesterday came rolling back…There was a dead eye Mickey Bousquet (1956) calmly sinking a free throw to lead his team to victory…Ball handling and passing wizard Paul Phaneuf (1954) on his way to a 25-point performance over archrival Tourtellotte… Roger Franklin (1956) hitting his patented corner shot, before there was a three-point arc, against Killingly…Bob Defilippo (1955) and Bill Bellerose (1956) working their way inside for hard fought baskets…Phil Desantis (1956), Gerry Desautels (1957), Lou Rovero (1953), Paul Fall (1957) and Bob Gosselin (1958) driving hard to the hoop past much bigger opponents.
Who can forget “Big” Stan Nelson (1960) coming on to the scene as a freshman and dominating for four seasons…Rich Franklin (1961) and Moe Coderre (1962) with turnaround jumpers from the top of the key…Lean Bob Auger (1969) destroying opponents with his inside strength and long range bomber Gerry Vaillant (1967) winning games from the outside…Owen Tarr (1965) and slick Phil Durand (1964) throwing in unbelievable shots…And of course there was prolific scoring Gary LaFlamme (1972) teaming with the likes of Steve Solomkin (1971) Bob (1971) and Scott (1973) Tetreault and Dennis Rondeau (1971) forming a well oiled machine under coach Jack Hession.
The dominant force in the decade of the 80’s was the duo of big Kyle Leeman (1986) and his running mate  Jim Crabtree (1983)…Big man Steve Miller was a legitimate 6-foot, 8-inch and burly…Sharp shooting Matt Gunsalus (1989) and Alan Lavallee (1983) brought the crowd to its feet on many an evening in the “old” gym…And who can forget the likes of Mickey Fall (1980), Kevin Guertin (1988), Mike Gisleson (1988), Jay Byrnes (1981), John Waterman (1985), Bob Breault (1987), Chris Coderre (1988) and Bob Mooney (1984)?
The '90s brought along the likes of Derek Roberts (1996), Tom Espinosa (1997), Phil Bonin (1999), Eric Mauer (1997), Curtis (1993) and Luke (1994) LaFlamme, John Espinosa (1995), Nick Perron (1998) and Russ Bonin (1997).
As the “old” gym turned into the “new” century, its hardwood floor, which was beginning to show its wear and tear supported the likes of Jeff Bousquet (2002), Andy (2000) and Peter (2002) Vitale, Dino Porcic (2012), Colin Purdon (2006), Jon Lamiotte (2001), Bryan Smith (2004), Travis Godley (2008) and Trevor Smith (2000).
The “old” gym, known up and down Eastern Connecticut for its “Z” Section produced a CIAC Class S Champion (1986), Regional teams in 1983, 1985 and 1986.  It was the home of Eastern Connecticut Conference and Quinebaug Valley Conference Champions on the varsity, junior varsity and freshman levels.
The “old” gym has honored Putnam well since it was built in 1951 and inaugurated with a game against Woodstock with the likes of Francis “Pop” Curran, Charlotte “Moose” McCulloch and Albert “AJ” Murphy on hand.  If it could talk it would have many more stories and memories to share.  It might even talk about Colonel Gilbert Woods and his son, Gil, who never missed a game for years and were a fixture in the stands and on the sidelines.
It would tell stories going back to Kim Belliveau, Laurie St. Jean, the Altmeier sister, Emily Vaillant, the Espinosa girls, Vicki Rondeau, the Page sisters and numerous other talented female athlets. 
It’s conceivable that the shiny “new” gym will someday be able to look up to its older sister or brother, the “old” gym, and tell its stories.  It will have its players who will make memories.  Hopefully it will produce championship teams.  But for now the “new” gym is very much in its infancy and has a long way to go before it can recount stories and heroics like the “old” gym can.  Putnam shouldn’t lose those memories and names. 
College Watch
Many players who attend Putnam Science Academy come with the dream of playing Division I basketball.  That dream, however, doesn’t always happen.  For some it’s a disappointment but for others it’s an opportunity.
Paul Brooks, the 6 -9 big man from Arlington, Mass., came to the Maple Street campus for the 2012-2013 season with the Division I dream in mind but instead found himself at Division III Worcester State University.  Since becoming a Lancer, Brooks has blossomed as an intimidating big man.  In a recent 96-93 victory over Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Brooks led the Lancers to the win with a career performance.  The junior posted a double-double, pouring in 28 points and corralling 19 rebounds.      
During his first two seasons in Worcester, Brooks has garnered conference Rookie of the Year and all-conference honors, as well as being named Player-of-the-Week on numerous occasions.  Brooks has taken advantage of the opportunity provided by Mustang basketball and is living his dream.
Thompson Mourns Loss 
of Former Racing Great
The Hoenig family of the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park recently expressed its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of a former track champion.  Ron Bouchard, who was a regular competitor at Thompson from 1972 through 1980, died following a courageous fight against cancer recently.  Bouchard, a native of Fitchburg, Mass., was 67.
Following his racing days at Thompson, Bouchard moved on to compete in NASCAR’s top division, The Winston Cup, now Sprint Cup. He was named Rookie of the Year in his first year on the circuit.  His biggest victory was the Talladega 500.  During the time he ran at Thompson Bouchard captured 37 victories and the Modified Track Championship in 1978 and the Thompson 300 in 1980. 
“He (Bouchard) was not only a wonderful personal friend, but was a marvelous driver and a great golfing companion,” said Donald Hoenig.  Bouchard and Hoenig, owner of the Thompson layout, were long-time friends.
Sports Talk Highlight
Since taking over as Sports Director at WINY 1350, Josh Sanchas has been hard at work bringing the best sports news and coverage to the local listening audience.  On Saturday, December 12 on the popular Sports Talk show, Sanchas’ guest was former Boston Globe sports writer Gordon Eads, who recently left the paper to take a position with the Boston Red Sox.  Eads now serves as the team’s historian and directs much of the public relations and marketing effort of the BoSox.  Sanchas and Eads spent an informative half hour segment of the show discussing and analyzing the prospects for the 2016 Boston Red Sox.
RPC’s Closing Thought For The Day: Success is determined by goals finished – not attempted. 
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