For the first two Mondays of every February, college hockey takes over the city of Boston. Northeastern, Harvard, Boston College and Boston University play against each other for the Beanpot, the trophy granting college hockey supremacy in the city of Boston. Imagine Duke, UNC, NC State and Wake Forest playing each other in a yearly mid-season basketball tournament for regional bragging rights. Now imagine that instead of occupying the same state, all of these schools were crowded into the city of Charlotte. Picture this concentration of talented programs battling for city-wide bragging rights along with passionate fan bases eager to abuse those rights and you have something like what Boston experiences every year. Beyond pure entertainment value, here are the reasons you should care about the Beanpot:
1. The Teams:
Monday’s title game features a matchup between Boston College and Northeastern, ranked #1 and #8 respectively in the most recent Pairwise rankings. Boston University has failed to live up to its high standards this year, but the Terriers remain one of the nation’s top programs, with their most recent NCAA championship coming on a ridiculous comeback in 2009. Harvard seems to always be rebuilding, but they still present a difficult out.
BC and BU can both boast 5 national championships, while Harvard can point to one of its own in 1989. Northeastern, while yet to capture a title, has surged in recent years to become one of the top programs in the Northeast if the not the entire country. Along with their 10 combined trophies, 4 of the last 6 national titles have been won by either BC or BU. BU won in 2009, while BC won in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
2. The Players
Well, the player, really. BC’s Johnny Gaudreau is a favorite to win this year’s Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy. With a combination of great hands, quick feet and deadly-accurate shooting/passing, Gaudreau leads the Eagles and the nation with 24 goals and 56 points, good for 2 points per game. This must continually torment Northeastern fans, as he was originally a Northeastern commit who switched to the Eagles when Huskies coach Greg Cronin resigned. Gaudreau is a draft pick of the Calgary Flames, who took the forward in the 4th round of the 2011 NHL Draft. Beyond that, he helped Team USA earn a gold medal in the 2013 World Junior Championships, recording a tournament-high 7 goals. Oh, and he also has a tendency to score goals like this one, which secured the 2012 National Championship Game against Ferris State for the Eagles.
Gaudreau is great, but you shouldn’t get the idea that he is the only great player in this tournament. While he is the most talented, he is not alone as an NHL prospect. 9 draft picks currently suit up for Harvard, 8 for BU, 10 for BC and 4 for Northeastern. One of these players, Northeastern’s Kevin Roy, won last year’s tournament MVP award by scoring 5 goals over 2 games despite the fact that the Huskies lost to BC in the final. Roy went on to score 17 goals and assist on 17 more in his freshman year. Now, back as a sophomore to try and repeat his heroics, Roy comes into the Beanpot with 15 goals and 18 assists on the year.
3. The Rivalry
Boston College and Boston University are college hockey’s most bitter rivals. Picture Georgetown-Syracuse, except instead of having to travel to God-forsaken upstate New York to reach the opponent’s campus you would only to need to ride Boston’s Green Line for a few stops. On the nights of the Beanpot, BC students are known to pack the trains early in an attempt to prevent BU fans from boarding. When the two play each other, the TD Garden rings with chants hurled back and forth across the arena by the two massive student sections. “Safety School” (BC to BU) and “Sunday School” (BU to BC) are two favorites, along with each school’s favored goal-celebration chants. They are too complicated to write out here, but just know that BC’s ends with fans pointing at the opposing goalie and repeating the phrase: “It’s all your fault, it’s all your fault,” and BU’s is along the same lines.
BC-BU is the headliner, but the other matchups usually find a way to entertain. If anything, that rivalry might lead to smaller rivalries between the other schools. Harvard and especially Northeastern feel like they are ignored, and the resulting resentment can fuel tensions between them and their more prominent competitors. It’s unfortunate for them, but in this tournament they’re like Casey Affleck sitting in the car with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting. No matter what he does, he doesn’t get to sit in the front seat until Damon is out of the picture. And every once in a while, this happens. Take 2009, when BU and Northeastern entered the title game as the #1 and #2 teams in the country. BU won the highly anticipated match 5-3, frustrating Northeastern’s chance at a rare title and sending the Terriers off on a path to the National Championship.
In summary, there are powerhouse programs featuring some of the best players in the country battling against their fiercest rivals for the right to call themselves the champions of Boston. But if that isn’t enough for you, I have to assume that you must not be a hockey fan. If you are, then you know that in 4 of the last 6 years, the team that won the Beanpot went on to win the National Championship.