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Monday Night, College Hockey Takes Center Stage

by Angela Stefano / Boston Bruins
For all the beans... (photo by Babineau)

Boston, MA -- The games may not mean anything in the standings, and, yes, the trophy is actually shaped like a pot of beans, but for the next two Mondays, the only thing that matters to Boston college hockey fans, coaches and players is the Beanpot.

For the 56th year, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern will face each other in a time-honored battle royale for the bragging rights that come with the title of 2008 Beanpot Champions.

BU has captured 28 titles.
“The Beanpot affects all of us in different ways and in a lot of different categories,” said  Steve Nazro, vice president of event scheduling at the TD Banknorth Garden at a pre-tournament luncheon.  “The coaches and the players use this as a mid-season chance to win something important…and fans get really into the Beanpot every year.

“People start out [watching] as youngsters, and they grow up, perhaps to play, perhaps to coach, and certainly to continue as fans.

“It’s a wonderful thing, a wonderful tradition,” he said.

During the luncheon, players and coaches from all four teams explained the significance of the tournament to their school and squads.

“[The Beanpot] is…something that we circle on our hockey calendar every year,” said former Boston Bruin turned Harvard head coach, Ted Donato.

“It's a tremendous opportunity to energize our group, just create a little bit more color in what I call the dark days of the winter,” added Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin.  “Playing the Beanpot at this time of year, with the entire city embracing the tournament, I think [makes the] entire hockey community take notice.”

BC head coach Jerry York explained that the Beanpot has always been held in high regard on his end of Commonwealth Avenue.

“In the ‘50s…and in the ‘60s when [Boston University head coach Jack Parker] and I played, it was a terrific opportunity for coaches and players and fans, and it’s just as important now,” he said.

The players, many of whom were unfamiliar with the Beanpot until they came to the area, shared some of their favorite Beanpot-related memories.

Buffalo Sabres center Michael Ryan played for Northeastern in the Beanpot.
“As I look back over my college experience so far, without a doubt, this tournament ranks at the top,” said Northeastern captain Joe Vitale.  “When I go back to the Midwest and skate…the first question they always ask is ‘Joe, what’s the Beanpot like?’

"It’s becoming more and more of a national interest, and I consider myself very lucky to [play in it].”

“Every year you get to see it, you kind of get a feel for how important it is to the city, to New England,” said Harvard captain Dave MacDonald, who said he “found out the hard way” how big the Beanpot really is.

“After my sophomore Beanpot, I was getting friends from all around the country calling me going ‘Hey, Dave, I saw you on ESPN Top Ten.

“Unfortunately, it was a BU goal, and I was on ESPN…for the wrong reasons,” he said.

Terrier Pete MacArthur named three reasons the Beanpot is a special tournament.

“First…it’s a Monday night; it’s kind of like Monday football,” he said.  “Monday night, you’re on the grand stage; everybody’s paying attention to you, so you want to put on a good show.

“Secondly, there’s a lot of tournaments played throughout the country where there’s a different field every year,” MacArthur continued.  “And in the Beanpot, there’s four schools…and every year it’s the same.

“To know that there’s going to be the same four teams fighting to be the best team in Boston every year, it’s really special.

“Thirdly,” he concluded, “putting on an event like this…you have to have good people involved with it.  And if we didn’t have such good people…the Beanpot wouldn’t be such a success as it has been.”

Boston College has 13 Beanpot titles.
The rivalry among the four teams is (usually) nothing but friendly, and players and coaches alike have tremendous respect for each other, school loyalties aside.

“Once it starts…on Monday night, we’re all competitors, and we play really, really hard,” said York,  “but I think we’ve got a great respect for our opponents.”

BU assistant coach Mike Bavis addressed the heated rivalry between BU and BC specifically.

“When a BU [versus] BC game takes place, it always comes up about the emotion, the rivalry, some bitter battles,” said Bavis.  “You can’t have such great games, have opponents bring out the best in you and really walk off the ice physically spent and emotionally spent without having respect for your opponent.”

York agreed wholeheartedly, again recounting his history with BU head coach Jack Parker.

“I have a lot of respect for all the coaches, but Jack and I have been together a long time, back and forth, recruiting battles and national battles, and a lot of different venues, and there is a great deal of respect,” he said.  “I know our players feel the same way.”

He also praised the ability of younger coaches, including NU's Cronin and Harvard's Donato.

“I’d love to see great young guys get into the business, and Teddy and Greg really bring something to college hockey,” York said.  “We want to have young guys like that come into our profession, and they’ve really done a great job.”

The teams have all had their ups and downs this year, but, in reality, these two nights in February are just that – separate from the season, with the potential for a win from all teams.

Former Bruin, now Harvard Coach, Ted Donato won the 1989 Beanpot Tournament while playing at Harvard.
“It’s one night, one game,” said Donato.  “I think there are a lot of kids in this room…who have the talent to take over the night or make a play that could change the game.”

“It doesn’t even matter how good a year one of the teams is having because the competitive nature of tournament really brings out the best in everybody,” said BC forward Andrew Orpik.  “With how good all four teams are playing this year, I’m really excited to see how exciting the tournament’s going to be.”

The tournament for “all the beans in Boston,” if you will, begins Monday night on the Garden ice.  Opponents are determined on rotation, so each school faces the others regularly. 

This year, Harvard and NU play at 5 p.m., while BC and BU renew their rivalry at 8 p.m.

Winners of each game will face each other for bragging rights on Monday, February 11, at 8 p.m.
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