Maybe I Don't Know Beans, But...

By Elliot Olshansky - February 05, 2008

As weeks of college hockey go, this one pretty much has to top the list.

On Friday, of course, the weekend slate is headlined by No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Michigan. But the week started last night with the first day of the Beanpot tournament.

Now, if you've been a fan of college hockey long enough, you know which of these two events is going to get more media attention. And if you're a fan of college hockey west of the state of Massachusetts, that probably bothers you just a tad.

(Of course, if you're far enough west, you're probably upset that Miami and Michigan are No. 1 and No. 2 in the polls in the first place, but that's another story altogether.)

"East Coast Bias!" the screams rain down.

"Who cares?!"

"The Beanpot is overrated."

I've certainly heard this enough times, and I do understand why it can be frustrating the way the Beanpot resonates.

But after three-and-a-half Beanpots, I also understand that the Beanpot is special.

The Venue: Of course, the KurtCenter (as I still call the building known to the rest of the world as TD Banknorth Garden) can hardly hold a candle to its predecessor, the old Boston Garden, in terms of atmosphere and history, but the storied old arena added . However, the building is slowly developing some history of its own, as I saw when I covered my first Beanpot in 2005, when Chris Bourque scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the championship game against Northeastern, just as his father, Ray Bourque had scored the winner in the 1996 NHL All-Star Game.

More important than that, though, it's having a neutral site, where the fans that show up are all on equal footing. Sure, all four of these schools are close enough together that they can go to their teams' road games at the other arenas, but it's someone else's building. At the KurtCenter, each school has a section of the balcony, and they interact with one another, adding to the atmosphere of the event.

The Teams: Yes, they're all from Boston. Yes, they play during the regular season as well (except Harvard and Northeastern). But the fact that it's the same teams every year in the same place on the same days gives a certain continuity that makes it feel special.

The History: It's the 30th anniversary of the blizzard that trapped fans and workers in the arena after the 1978 Beanpot. When Harvard takes the KurtCenter ice next week, it'll be the first time since 1998. Every team that comes to the KurtCenter has something more to think about than the day's opponent. Whether it's history to live up to or history to overcome, there's an extra factor to every game in the Beanpot, a different meaning, and a great deal of that has to do with what came before.

The BU Mystique: The Terriers are mocked every now and then for their attachment to the Beanpot, their introduction as the "defending Beanpot champions" at home games, and the idea that they can accomplish something meaningful in February. Here's the thing, though: that attachment - and the success that has led to it - mean that regardless of how good or bad the Terriers are, they become the team to beat on Mondays in February. The goalie, whether he's Rick DiPietro or Stephan Siewic, makes the saves he needs to to give his team a chance to win. Every puck that hops over a stick or clangs off of a post makes you wonder if BU is doing it again. And when a team does take down the Terriers in the Beanpot, it's truly special. I'm sure if you polled the BC locker room right now, the only win over BU in recent memory that resonates more than last night's win is the 2006 win in Worcester that sent the Eagles to the Frozen Four.

The Pride: The biggest thing that jumps out to me when I think about what makes the Beanpot special is the overtime. Last night's second game was the fourth overtime contest in as many years, and I love the fact that the Beanpot has full overtimes, The history of the Beanpot is far too rich, with too many overtime heroes, to stop adding to those annals. Nathan Gerbe is the latest. Will there be another one?

Personally, I can't wait another week to find out.

Posted by Elliot Olshansky at 10:02 PM on February 05, 2008

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