The tournament is finally here. For a two-week span in February each year, four Boston schools and their respective hockey teams duke it out at TD Garden for the chance to call themselves Beanpot champions.
Now, if you’re not a college student, you may be saying, “What is the Beanpot?’’ or, “Why should I care about the Beanpot?’’ The reason you should care about the Beanpot tournament is because it’s a part of the history of this city.
According to the Beanpot website, the first game played was in 1952 at Matthews Arena, on the campus of Northeastern University, before moving to the Boston Garden for the next iteration of the tournament in 1954, leaving 1953 without a Beanpot. It took time for the Beanpot to find its footing in the city, but after the tournament in 1961, every game has been sold out and it has been a fixture in this city ever since.
“There’s no doubt the first Monday night in February is known as ‘Hockey Night In Boston,’’’ John Harpootian (BU ’83 and ’86) believes. “I’ve been going since the 1970s, and it’s a tradition like no other. It defines the city of Boston as a hockey town. Ultimately when you boil it down, Boston is a hockey town, and nothing says hockey in this city more than the Beanpot.’’
Fans of Boston University have reason to be excited for the Beanpot, especially this season, where they are leading the Hockey East division of NCAA Hockey.
Conor Ryan (BU ’15) knows the heat is on for the Terriers to win this year but is excited to watch the tournament play out.“The Terriers have won 29 titles, but have yet to win in over 5 years,’’ he said. “I think the pressure is really ramped up this year, not only because of the drought of titles, but because the talent that this Terrier team has.’’
That talent includes predicted top American NHL draft pick Jack Eichel, who has done nothing but tear up teams this season, with 13 goals and 23 assists in 22 games played.
Speaking of hot, the Northeastern Huskies also have reason to believe they’ll perform better in this year’s Beanpot.
“Our team is playing some of its best hockey of the season to date, and has received unwavering support for the fans and alumni throughout the season,’’ said Northeastern Athletic Director Peter Roby. “I look forward to watching our student-athletes compete against nationally ranked teams who are all playing at a very high level. It has been a long time since the Huskies raised the championship trophy, and nothing would give me more satisfaction than to see our loyal fans cheering for our team after winning the Beanpot.’’
The Huskies haven’t hoisted the Beanpot since 1988, but are on a hot 7-2-3 streak since the beginning of December, led by junior Kevin Roy, who has had 16 points in that span of 12 games.
The Harvard Crimson have had a very successful year so far, going 12-4-2 to this point with a tremendous eight of those wins away from the Bright-Landry Hockey Center, as they sit in second in the ECAC standings. They’ve played spoiler to the two teams in this tournament they have played, defeating BC 6-3 at Conte Forum and sneaking past BU 3-2 in overtime at Agganis Arena.
Kyle Criscuolo, junior forward and co-captain of this Harvard squad is definitely looking forward to this year’s first round matchup with the BU Terriers. “We felt that we played a good game last time,’’ he said. “But they’re obviously one of the best teams in the nation, they have a potent offense we’re gonna try to slow down, it’s gonna be a tight game, but we’re excited about it.’’
As for the tournament itself, he hopes the team tries to put its recent shortcomings in the first round behind them. “The last two years have been disappointing in the first round, we lost to BC and NU, last year wasn’t very close at all. We’re trying to forget that, we’re playing our best hockey this year, we’re just focusing on BU.’’
Taking charge for the Crimson is junior forward Jimmy Vesey, who in 18 games has tallied 30 points to lead his team in scoring.
However, the team who still needs to be taken down is the Boston College Eagles, who have won the last five straight Beanpots, two over the BU Terriers and three against the Northeastern Huskies.
Molly Brabham (BC ’89) has fond memories of traveling from BC’s campus to the heart of Boston to watch the Beanpot. “They would provide buses for students to get there and other students would rent RV’s to go tailgate.’’
Billy Seltzer (BC ’17) feels how electrifying this time is for Eagles fans in Chestnut Hill. “I would say it’s one of the most exciting times of year on campus because we are competing against the other Boston schools to see who is the best,’’ Seltzer says. “BU is arguably our biggest rival and to take that rivalry to the biggest venue in Boston and onto the biggest stage is incredible.’’
BU and BC have an incredibly long history in itself with their rivalry dubbed “The Battle of the Green Line,’’ but have played each other 21 times in the championship game of the Beanpot, Boston University holding a slight edge in wins, 11-10 over BC. The team has multiple leaders from both ends of the ice, including forwards Adam Gilmour and Ryan Fitzgerald, who have combined for 36 points over 25 games, and defenseman Noah Hanifin, who also represented the United States in the World Junior Championships this year, along with teammates Alex Tuch, Ian McCoshen and Thatcher Demko, and rival Jack Eichel.
Jack Dunn, Director of the News and Public affairs Office at BC knows how important this tournament to students. “All of us at BC are very excited for the upcoming Beanpot,’’ he said. “The men’s hockey team has been playing its best hockey as of late and there is great excitement among the BC students who will fill the balcony of TD Garden as they do every year.’’
So whether you root for the BU Terriers, Northeastern Huskies, Harvard Crimson, Boston College Eagles, or are just a fan of hockey itself, nothing seems to show how much a hockey town Boston is as the Beanpot, as it has for decades. The first games are Tuesday, February 3, at TD Garden, where BU will host Harvard at 5 p.m., and BC will host Northeastern, that game scheduled for an 8 p.m. start.