The Boy from Reactor 4 - By Orest Stelmach

HE CAME FROM nowhere. No one had ever heard of him or seen him before. No one knew who he was.

On the first day of tryouts for the hockey team at Fordham Prep School in the Bronx, he dazzled the coaches with speed, agility, and puck-handling wizardry that belied his age. They whispered giddily to each other and scurried for their cell phones to call friends and wives. They knew they had just witnessed the arrival of a future pro, and possibly a once-in-a-generation talent. They needed to share the news with someone. They needed to share the news with everyone.

He had the uncommon name of Aagayuk Kungenook, and he was an orphan from the Arctic Circle along the northwest coast of Alaska, an Inupiat from Kotzebue, population three thousand. In addition to their Inupiaq names, Inupiat take on a given English name later in life. This name is often based on someone the person admires. In Aagayuk Kungenook’s case, his given English name was Bobby. Hence, his full name was Aagayuk Bobby Kungenook.

Bobby made the varsity team as a sixteen-year-old walk-on. During his first four games, he scored seven goals and assisted on three others. This would have been a staggering achievement for any center or wing, let alone a freshman, but he was neither. Bobby was a defenseman. He wasn’t expected to score any goals.

Prior to this offensive outburst, his teammates kept their distance from him. At school, kids called him “Shark Bite.” Half ears jutted out from the side of Bobby’s head, with jagged, square tops that ended just above the canal. Some said a shark had attacked him while he was swimming in the Kotzebue Sound, while others insisted his father had cut them as punishment for not listening to him and then committed suicide.

Once the team opened the season undefeated, however, Bobby’s teammates stopped calling him Shark Bite. The upperclassmen began confronting anyone at school who dared speak disrespectfully to their young star. Assuming he’d taken his English name from the greatest defenseman ever to play hockey, his teammates modified it further to fit his talents. They combined a living legend’s first and last names, rolled them into one, and created a new moniker for their prodigy. They began to call him simply “Bobbyorr.”

Every December, the New York Rangers hosted their annual Ice Hockey Night in Harlem, featuring current and former players. During that event, at Lasker Rink in northern Central Park, sixteen-year-old Bobby Kungenook took on Ranger superstar Martin Gaborik in an impromptu one-lap race around the rink.

Gaborik, previously the NHL’s Fastest Skater award winner with a lap time of 13.713 seconds at the all-star game, finished with a time of 13.736 seconds outdoors. Bobby Kungenook, previously unknown, unseen, and unheard of, finished the same lap with a time of 13.573 seconds.

The conclusion was obvious yet unfathomable to everyone in attendance: the sixteen-year-old orphan from the Arctic Circle was arguably the fastest hockey player in the world.

Within a week, three videos of the race surfaced on YouTube and collected 230,000 hits around the world. The sports network aired the video on its news shows. It also dispatched Lauren Ross to the next Fordham game to interview Bobby. Lauren was determined to someday become a prime-time news anchor. She’d spent ten years in the business and had won three Emmys, but was still looking for a story to catapult her out of sports and into the upper echelons of mainstream broadcast journalism.

A standing-room-only crowd jammed The Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon for Fordham’s game against archrival Iona Prep, the first since the Gaborik race. The game began sloppily, as though both teams were distracted by the publicity. A collective murmur of expectation rose from the crowd whenever Bobby took the ice. He was about six feet tall on skates, with a body that looked as though it had been spliced together from two separate molds. Above the waist, his jersey hung loosely on sinew and bone. Below the waist, quadriceps and calf muscles bulged against the fabric of his pants, as though he’d been building up his legs since he’d left the womb.

With Fordham trailing 1–0 in the second period, a bruising Iona forward crushed Bobby against the boards. Bobby lost his balance and tumbled. Rather than get up and resume playing, however, Bobby stayed on his knees and began searching frantically for something on the ice. A necklace had fallen from his neck and spilled to the ground. During the ensuing five-on-four, Iona scored another