6 questions about the Beanpot hockey tournament, answered

The college hockey tournament takes to the Garden for the 68th year Monday.

2-11-19 Boston, MA: Northeastern captain Eric Williams hoists the Beanpot as he and his teammates start the celebration following their victory.  Northeastern University met Boston College in the BeanpotChampionship Game at the TD Garden. (Jim Davis /Globe Staff)
Northeastern captain Eric Williams hoists the Beanpot after the 2019 tournament. –Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Some of the best hockey in town returns to TD Garden on Feb. 3. No, the Bruins don’t play at home until the next day.

The 68th annual Beanpot tournament, pitting Boston’s top college hockey programs against each other, will take over the ice for the first two Mondays in February.

“It’s a dream come true for me [to play in the Beanpot],” said Northeastern captain Ryan Shea, a Milton native whose father Daniel played hockey at Boston College. “The Beanpot’s been in my family since I first started skating. We have 12 [Massachusetts] guys on our team, and they can say it just as well as I can. It’s pretty special.”

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Here are all of your questions about the Beanpot, answered.

Who is playing, and when?

Every year, the same four programs play in the Beanpot – Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern. First-round opponents rotate annually.

The semifinal round takes place Feb. 3 – defending champion Northeastern (13-7-2) will play Harvard (9-6-4) at 5 p.m., followed by BC (15-7-0) and BU (9-8-6), slated for 8 p.m. Home and away teams are decided by a coin flip at the annual Beanpot luncheon, held the Monday before the tournament begins.

Exactly a week later, on Feb. 10, the tournament returns to the Garden for the finals. The consolation game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., and the championship gets underway at 7:30 p.m.

Prior to the 1984-85 season, all four teams played in the ECAC, and Beanpot games would count as conference games. BC, BU, and Northeastern were among the teams that split from the ECAC to form Hockey East. Now,  even though three of the four programs are conference opponents, no conference points are on the line.

Monday nights? That seems inconvenient.

Since 1958, the Beanpot has been held at TD Garden on the first two Mondays in February. The scheduling, both in time of year and day of week, means that few events are competing with the tournament for attention.

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“Early February brings cabin fever to New England, and the region’s sports fans are excited by even the mention of pitchers and catchers reporting to Florida,” wrote Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, in celebration of the Beanpot’s 50th anniversary. “It is at this moment that the area needs a boost, something special to get excited about. And the Beanpot provides a diversion.”

The first games were held in the two days after Christmas, and moved to consecutive days in January in 1954 – this scheduling prevented 1953 from having a tournament. From 1955 to 1957, the tournament was held a few days apart in the first week of February.

How can I watch?

Both semifinal games and the championship will be broadcast live on NESN, with pregame coverage beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 and 7 p.m. on Feb. 10.

The Beanpot will be televised outside of New England on NHL Network and TSN2 (Canada).

Who will win?

Three of the four Beanpot teams are ranked in national college hockey polls. In the USCHO.com poll, Boston College ranks the highest of the teams at No. 5. Northeastern takes the 13th slot, and Harvard is No. 16. BU isn’t that far behind, either – the Terriers received five votes in the latest poll.

For the last few years, there’s been parity between Boston’s teams. From 2015-18, each team won the tournament. Northeastern’s win in 2018 ended a 30-year wait for the Huskies, who repeated last year to earn what was just their sixth title.

“The rivalries with all the schools here are second to none,” said Boston College coach Jerry York. “It’s just a unique experience, when BC and BU play, when BC and Northeastern play, when BC and Harvard play. The in-town rivalries are incredible. It seems to bring out the best in us.”

Why is it called the Beanpot?

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The tournament was originally named the New England Hockey Invitational, but before the inaugural tournament in 1952, The Boston Globe’s Leonard M. Fowle referred to it as the “so-called ‘Bean Pot’ tournament.” The name stuck.

After Harvard was crowned the inaugural champion, Walter Brown, who had purchased the Bruins the year before, donated the trophy that is still awarded today.

“I have ordered a silver bean pot as a perpetual trophy for this tournament, to which the name ‘Bean Pot’ seems to have stuck,” Brown announced on Dec. 30, 1952.

Which team has won the most championships?

BU is the all-time champion with 30 titles, but they also have the lengthiest Beanpot drought. The Terriers haven’t won the tournament since 2015. The Eagles have 20 victories, and Harvard owns 11. Northeastern has the least with six, its most recent coming in 2018 and 2019.