Friday, January 11, 2013

Archives: The Beanpot (Mar/Apr 2007)

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The NHL is heading back into action later this month and will draw some attention from the Beanpot, the annual college hockey tournament in Boston. In the March/April 2007 print issue of FIELD, I reported on the early February event. To help keep some small measure of deserved focus on the games, the following is the article as it appeared six years ago:

For the third straight year Boston University won the Beanpot, an annual hockey tournament featuring four Boston-area college hockey teams. Junior Brian McGuirk sent a wrist shot high to the glove side over BC goalie Cory Schneider's left shoulder to win the championship, 2-1, in overtime. It was McGuirk's first goal of the season.

The win was the Terriers' 28th in the history of the event dating back to the 1952-1953 season. The lineup of the tournament remains permanently fixed with Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern and Harvard returning each February to square off. This year's championship matchup was typical; every final since the initial has included either Boston College or Boston University. BU's tally of 28 Beanpots leads the pack with BC, Harvard, and Northeastern garnering 13, 10, and 4 titles, respectively.

The tournament is unique for having prospered while remaining essentially the same during a half century of major change within professional and college sports. The first Beanpot, according to Northeastern's Jack Grinold, "was designed as filler...to help the [Boston] Arena on off nights." The next year the Beanpot moved from the arena to its permanent home at Boston Garden and six years later the first two Mondays of February became the event's regular calendar dates. The shift of dates (the first tournament was held during the days following Christmas) may, more than anything else, account for the continued popularity of the Beanpot.

By February, a sports-crazed Boston region is eager for an event of some significance. Opening day is still nearly two months off and the mere mention of the Red Sox's equipment traveling south to Florida has rated a story in the Boston Globe. The Celtics and Bruins, although winter sports teams, may play until June if they should reach their league's finals. The Pats are recently or a month done.

The weeklong pause between the initial and final games also creates a natural buildup of anticipation and attention, and Monday nights are relatively free of any competing events. By 1961, the Beanpot final was selling out the Garden. Since 1979, nearly every game of the tourney has sold out.

Following the Beanpot, Boston College, Boston University, and Northeastern complete their slate of regular season games before heading to the Hockey East conference playoffs in March. Harvard will push for its fourth ECAC Hockey title in six years beginning in March.