Stirring the Pot

By Elliot Olshansky - February 10, 2008


OK, folks, let's clear something up about Matt Gilroy's high ankle sprain. Jack Parker told it to me on Wednesday afternoon, and I published his exact words on this blog that night.

Gilroy, of course, played for the Terriers in their 6-2 win at UMass-Lowell on Friday, and should be in action tomorrow at the Beanpot.

Of course, I had thought that coaches in New England had adopted the Bill Belichick strategy of saying, "I'm not a doctor" when it comes to injuries, but I guess a lot of folks are less enthusiastic about emulating the New England Patriots' coach after that ill-advised call to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal last week.

Thankfully, some things in Boston never go out of style...like the Beanpot.

I tried last Tuesday to capture a sense of why the Beanpot is such a great event, and I really don't think I did it justice. The truth is that the Beanpot needs to be experienced in person to get a sense of what makes it so special, however, I'll offer one more thought on the subject:

The players, and how much they care, are the most important element of what the Beanpot is all about.

First of all, every player of consequence at all four of the schools since the tournament's inception has played in the Beanpot, which is the only major event in college hockey you can say that about.

The only other event in college hockey that comes close to capturing the spirit of the Beanpot - and, coincidentally, the only other in-season tournament that can really get away with playing full overtimes - is the Great Lakes Invitational. There's a different kind of bragging rights involved in the GLI than in your typical game between Michigan and Michigan State (as the championship game so often winds up being). However, because of when it's played, some of the most notable players in the GLI schools' recent histories never played in the tournament. Take Jack Johnson, for example. He'll go down as one of the most notable Wolverines in this era of the program, if for no other reason than his decision to turn down the Carolina Hurricanes for another year in Ann Arbor. However, he never played for the Wolverines in the GLI because of the World Junior Championships (although, to his credit, he may have turned down the World Juniors had Red Berenson not advised him otherwise).

At BC, BU, Harvard and Northeastern, every player of consequence whether they play college hockey for one season or four, plays in the Beanpot. In November, when I asked Brian Leetch about some of his most notable memories from his one season at Boston College, the Beanpot (and the seemingly unavoidable loss to BU) came up, along with getting a milestone win for Len Ceglarski in the consolation game. Tony Amonte, Keith Tkachuck, Bill Guerin, Chris Drury, Ted Donato, Joe Mullen, Rick DiPietro...some played one year, some two, some four, but they all played in the Beanpot at least once.

So, what's the point? The tradition of the Beanpot comes with an intense desire to win the darn thing. Some detractors say it means more at BU, but if you think Nathan Gerbe would have taken that big dive upon scoring just any game-winner in overtime, you're kidding yourself.

I've written in the past about fighting in college hockey, pointing out that the fights that do break out are more memorable than many NHL fights, because the suspension means that players won't fight unless they care, and there's none of this "tap on the thigh" business that you see in the pros. It's really a very basic principle that doesn't just apply to fights, but to just about everything in sports: it's always better when the participants care the most.

It's why the NBA regular season is so tedious.

It's why people get hyped up for rivalry games, and we have "rivalry weeks" and big pep rallies and special t-shirts and what-have-you when a rivalry game is coming up.

And it's why tomorrow is going to be an outstanding night of hockey: because these players care. You could see it in goal celebrations last Monday, and you could hear it in the voices of the players - particularly the BC and Harvard players - in the post-game press conferences. Heck, you could even hear it in the voices of the Northeastern fans who exhorted their team to "Wake the F--- Up [clap, clap, clap-clap-clap]" when the Huskies allowed three goals in the first seven minutes and change.

And if you're there - and if you're a college hockey fan, you should try to be there at least once - you'll be able to feel it. I know I will.

Other selected thoughts from a weekend in Boston:

- I went to see my old Dartmouth buddy Tanner Glass pay for the Florida Panthers against the Bruins on Saturday. The evening was like a MasterCard commercial: Ticket - $60; cab from Harvard - $17; Bag check at Sullivan's Taps - $10; Cheddar-flavored Popcorn - $4; watching your friend get burned by Glen Murray, and talking about it with him afterwards: Priceless.

- Speaking of the Bruins game, I don't think I've ever been thankful for the NCAA's ban on in-arena alcohol advertising before, but seeing icing calls sponsored by Crown Royal brought about those feelings for the first time. Sponsored power plays are one thing. Sponsors for the last minute of a period...eh, although I much prefer the RPI tradition of the last minute of the period being sponsored by the fact that "Clarkson still sucks." Sponsored icing calls, on the other hand...No. Just...no.

- At the other end of the spectrum, as much as the Dartmouth alum in me hates to give Harvard (and particularly the Harvard band) credit for anything, the Crimson band has achieved new heights in "Sieve" chanting. When an organ version of "Hava Nagila" was piped in over the Bright Center PA, the Crimson band sang along, pointing to their own goalie and RPI's as appropriate:

Sieve Sieve, Sieve Goalie, Sieve Sieve, Sieve Goalie, Sieve Sieve, Sieve Goalie, Sieve Goalie Sieve

And they went on from there...truly awesome...I hope I get to hear it again tomorrow.

Posted by Elliot Olshansky at 03:44 PM on February 10, 2008
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