Too many outside of Boston, they no idea what the Beanpot Tournament is or what it stands for. But for those from the area, they understand what the first two Monday’s in February mean. The annual college hockey tournament features Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern, all of which are located just a few miles from the TD Garden. The first Monday consists of the semifinals and second Monday is the consolation and championship games. The tournament began in 1952, and has taken place during the same two weeks every year since 1954.
The proximity of the school’s with all of them being located in or around Boston gives fans and students the ultimate bragging rights for an entire year. The success of the school’s adds to this lore. The four school’s have combined for 10 NCAA Titles since the tournament has started, and none of those championships have been without a Beanpot win as well. The school’s are typically nationally ranked and stocked with players very familiar with each other. Eastern Massachusetts is one of the top places in the world for amateur hockey, with many of the players ending up on these four rosters. And if they do not know each other from growing up, they almost certainly know each other from a juniors league or United States developmental team. As former BU head coach Jack Parker once said to The New York Times, “a tournament of friendships and rivalries, but not necessarily friendly rivalries.” Current Boston College head coach Jerry York refers to the tournament as the beginning of “Trophy Season”, saying it is the first of three trophies the team must win, followed by the Hockey East Championship and NCAA Championship.
The games are among the most attended college hockey games during the entire season, besides the Frozen Four semifinals and national championship game. Most college hockey teams do not average over 10,000 fans per game and most some NCAA tournament games are played in arena’s that could not fit the amount of fans who attend the Beanpot. According to the Beanpot’s website, every championship game from 1996 through 2014 had at least 17,000 fans in attendance. Tickets for resale can often be found on websites for nearly as much money as someone might need to pay to see a Boston Bruins game. The tickets have grown to be the hottest in town and continue to fill the TD Garden in a way that no other college hockey game in America can.
Like many other sports in Boston, the Beanpot has seen dominance, in this case by Boston University and Boston College as well long title droughts, which belong to Northeastern and Harvard. BU has won 30 Beanpot titles, 24 of which came with Jack Parker either playing or coaching behind the bench. BC is behind in second place with 20 titles, with the BC vs. BU rivalry one of the best in all of sports. The team’s play twice during the regular season and often will face off a third time during the Beanpot. Well behind both school’s are Northeastern and Harvard who have not the same success as their Boston rivals. Northeastern has only won the Beanpot 4 times, all of which took place between 1980 and 1988. Their drought continues, while Harvard captured their 11th title in 2017, ending a near 25-year championship drought.
Also like many other sports in Boston, the Beanpot has no shortage of historic moments. The first round of the 1978 Beanpot took place during the Blizzard of 1978 and left fans stuck at the old Boston Garden for days after the games. Just two years later, Northeastern won their first Beanpot title on an overtime goal by Wayne Turner which became known as “The Shot Heard Round the Beanpot”. It is also called the most important goal in Northeastern history and the marquee sporting event for the school. More recently, a string of overtime finishes in the championship where highlighted by the 2012 final when BC defeated BU 3-2 with only 6.4 seconds left in overtime.
The success of the men’s hockey Beanpot has spurned the inception of many other Beanpots in various sports. The women’s hockey Beanpot began in 1979 and has historically been dominated by Northeastern and Harvard. In fact, Boston University has won the least titles in the women’s tournament, compared to the men’s. The baseball Beanpot replaces BU with UMass-Amherst, and has been played since 1990 with the final round often played at Fenway Park. Other organization’s around the state will host events that take on the same format, such as BU hosting a “Club Soccer Beanpot” and inviting the four hockey schools to participate. Women’s Rowing team’s will traditionally participate in a Beanpot tournament every April that is held on the Charles River and includes MIT. The “Annual Concert Band Beanpot” features the Wind Ensembles and Concert Bands of all four Beanpot schools. The Boston Beanpot Cycling Classic is a race that takes place every year through the eastern part of Massachusetts.