Every February four heated hockey rivals -- BC, BU, Harvard and Northeastern -- turn Boston into the Greatest Show on Ice
Though BC reigned last year, the smart money is on BU (25 titles), not Harvard, which is Pot-luckless since '93, or Northeastern (no titles since 1988).
By Matthew Waxman
Since Foulke underhanded the ball to Mientkiewicz in October, Boston has been locked in one citywide group hug. That makes three pro championships and three ticker-tape parades down Boylston Street in the last three years, which has turned the cityscape into an orgy of random high-fives and teary bar toasts to Brady, Theo and the boys.
However, come the first Monday in February, Bostonians put aside their camaraderie and the city lines are drawn, the fandom quartered. Since 1952 the locals have been boarding the T to watch Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern face off in the Beanpot hockey tournament, an event as rich with local flavor as a sausage-and-pepper sub hawked outside Fenway Park.
The allegiances are obvious as soon as one steps inside the FleetCenter. The arena is neatly divided among the four schools. "When one team scores, a quarter of the place erupts," says tournament director Steve Nazro. The four student sections are in the building's upper deck. (Harvard and Northeastern are placed as buffers between the two most bitter rivals, BC and BU.) That leads to dueling chants among all the schools, on topics ranging from campus location (BU fans to Northeastern: "s---ty part of Boston") to train lines (BU to Northeastern: "E train sucks!") to admissions standards (Harvard to BU: "safety school").
"It's the best scene in college hockey," says Edmonton Oilers center Marty Reasoner, who played for BC from 1995 to '98. "The national championship can be in Michigan or Minnesota and people in Boston may not hear about it, but in the Beanpot you are on center stage."
BU freshman forward Chris Bourque is set to play in his first Beanpot at the FleetCenter, where his father Ray Bourque's No. 77 Bruins jersey hangs from the rafters. "I went all the time as a kid, and the chance to play in it is one of the main reasons I chose BU," he says. "It will be an honor to be part of the history."
That storied history includes the infamous Blizzard of '78 game. As the storm of the century began dumping 27 inches of snow outside Boston Garden, then home of the Beanpot, 3,500 fanatics stayed to watch undefeated BU (19-0) play BC, risking being stranded in the arena. The Terriers beat the Eagles 12-5 and got out of the Garden with their perfect record intact. More than 200 people, however, did not get out of the arena for days.
Northeastern's Beanpot history has been anything but storied. The Huskies went Potless in the tourney's first 28 years. Then, in the 1980 title game, center Wayne Turner broke through the BU defense in overtime and flipped in the "shot heard 'round the Beanpot," reversing the Huskies' curse. Conversely, BU has won the tournament 25 times in 52 years, including 10 of the last 14 under coach Jack Parker, the second-winningest active coach in college hockey. He trails BC coach Jerry York, who has won two Beanpots in 11 seasons at the school.
The competition is top-notch at the Beanpot -- or the BU Invitational, as the Terriers prefer to call it. In the last 15 years 14 Beanpot teams have appeared in the NCAA Frozen Four. This year's tournament will feature three of the top 15 teams in the nation: No. 1 BC, No. 11 Harvard and No. 14 BU. Harvard currently has nine drafted players on its roster, yet despite the talent base, the wicked smart kids haven't won the Beanpot since '93. "Harvard always comes out of exams in January," explains Crimson coach and former Harvard star Ted Donato. "For a long time kids would end their exams on Saturday and, after having 2 1/2 weeks off [from the ice], would play Monday night."
Boiled down to its essence, the Beanpot is about bragging rights to the city. "Wisconsin or North Dakota can talk about their top rivalries, but find me a more intense web of hatred," says BU junior Jonathan Goldberg, head of the school's Dog Pound cheering section. "We have it and the rest of the country doesn't."
The 48-Hour Guide to Boston
9 a.m. Fenway Park tour Make a pilgrimage to the capital of Red Sox Nation. The hourlong, $12 tour includes the chance to sit in the dugout and rub elbows with the Monster.
3 p.m.The Fours Prime yourself at the spot ranked among SI's top 25 sports bars, across the street from the FleetCenter. The Bobby Orr Steak and Cheese is to die for.
5 p.m.Beanpot Walk over to the Fleet for the first game of the doubleheader.
11 p.m.Hong Kong Will Hunting & Co. hit up the now-defunct Crimson Sports Grille to "f--- up some smart kids." Now you'll find the smart kids on game night on the second floor of this bar in Harvard Square.
11:30 p.m.The Dugout If BU wins the Beanpot, the trophy often makes its way by this time over to this popular hangout (second only to T's Pub) on Commonwealth Avenue. With the Terriers' dominance over the years, she's practically a regular.
1 a.m.Punters Pub Win or lose (usually the latter), Huskies fans and players will be sipping suds here till close.
9 p.m.Mary Ann's If BC wins, the party will still be raging on Tuesday, so head to this dive bar, a.k.a. Scary Ann's. Warning: The wait to get in can be 30 minutes on some nights.
12:30 a.m.Eagles Deli Dubbed as "the second-best place to pig out in the U.S.A.," Eagles offers the two-pound Cowabunga and the one-pound Godzilla burgers. Or try the Chillerama (10 half-pound patties, 20 slices of cheese and a five-pound bag of fries); finish in one hour and get the $50 meal comped.