Sunday February 13, 2011

Some things are just quintessential New England. Clam chowder, Fenway Park, Samuel Adams beer, the Beanpot.

For the uninitiated, the Beanpot is a college hockey tournament that features Boston's four college teams -- Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Harvard.

The consolation and championship games will be played Monday night in the TD Garden. Harvard will face BU in the consolation, while BC will meet Northeastern in the championship game.

If you're looking for pure sports, you can't do much better than the Beanpot. Everything about it is spontaneous.

Have you ever been to the Garden to see the Celtics or the Bruins? It's an assault on your senses, from cheerleaders to incessant music on the P.A. system to a need for the message board to tell you when to cheer.

Not so at the Beanpot, and certainly not during the BU-BC first-round game. You get pep bands instead of Guns ‘n Roses. Clever cheers instead of noise.

In Monday's first round, you had Northeastern fans chanting "Facebook, Facebook, you [stink]," a reference to former Harvard student and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Or you had Boston College fans derisively chanting "BU football," for a sport that hasn't been played on Commonwealth Ave. for a decade.

"I remember when [Northeastern coach Greg] Cronin said ‘Come on down for the Beanpot on a visit.' I said OK, and I didn't know much about it," Northeastern forward Mike McLaughlin said.


Advertisement

"I jumped on the computer and started researching, and found out it was a big deal."

Of course, as a hockey player from Seaforth, Ontario, McLaughlin wouldn't know much about the tournament.

"Just seeing the atmosphere that's here in the Garden, it's unbelievable," he continued. "That made me make my decision to come here."

For many in college hockey circles, the Beanpot had been known as the BC/BU Invitational, since it seemed like they were often in the finals together and have won most of the Beanpots. In fact, when Northeastern takes to the Garden ice tomorrow, the Huskies will be seeking their first title since 1988.

And if you are looking for any omens, the last three times Northeastern lost in the tournament, the Huskies were beaten by Boston University.

"I noticed that as well," said McLaughlin. "There's always a chance. You hope to come here and contribute."

One thing about the Beanpot is that while you get a W and the trophy, there are still other goals at the end of the proverbial rainbow. For both teams in the championship game, it's a possible Hockey East championship.

Which is why, while it may be for the Beanpot title, players will try to downplay the importance.

"If you put it that way, you put a little more stress on yourself," Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings told me, "making it a bigger game than it is. When you come down to it, it's a hockey game."

It has been suggested that UMass-Amherst, New Hampshire, Vermont and either Maine or UConn get together for a state school-style Beanpot tourney. That would be some great hockey.

But there is only one Beanpot. And that's enough.

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6253.