The Beanpot: A Midwinter Staple

The start of the second semester at Boston College means the illustrious Beanpot Tournament is right around the corner. On the first two Mondays of February the 66th Beanpot tournament will take place at the TD Garden. Students and fans of Boston College, Boston University, Harvard College, and Northeastern University will flock to the Garden to cheer on their team with the hopes that their team is lifting the Beanpot at the end. At all four participating schools, the Beanpot has become a chance to show school spirit and is a focal point for many rivalries among the teams.

1952 Beanpot coaches from all 4 colleges

1952 Beanpot coaches. Standing (left to right): Snooks Kelley (BC), Harry Cleverly (BU), Herb Gallagher (Northeastern). Seated: Cooney Weiland (Harvard) from P. 11, The Beanpot: Fifty Years of Thrills, Spills, and Chills by Bernard M. Corbett, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Despite its current status in Boston hockey, the Beanpot Tournament was devised by the Boston Arena’s manager, Walter Brown, merely as a way to fill dates and sell tickets. On December 26, 1952 the first Beanpot, called the New England Invitational Tournament, took place in the Boston Arena.  At the time, the Boston Arena was the home rink for all four teams. Before the first tournament, representatives from the Arena and the four schools came together to coordinate the tournament. A rotating schedule, that is still used today, was devised to allow each college the chance to play each of the other three in successive years. 5,105 fans were in attendance at the opening rounds of the inaugural tournament. Fewer than 1,000 seats were left empty, exceeding all expectations. Boston College lost their first round game to Harvard and Boston University beat Northeastern in their first round game. Boston College went on to win the consolation game against Northeastern and Harvard beat Boston University in the first tournament’s championship game.    

Boston College forward Wimpy Burtnett from first BC team to play in the Beanpot

Boston College forward Wimpy Burtnett from first BC team to play in the Beanpot from P. 10, The Beanpot: Fifty Years of Thrills, Spills, and Chills by Bernard M. Corbett, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

However, Boston College did not have to wait long for their first Beanpot Tournament championship. The following year multiple changes were made to the tournament. The tournament moved from December to January, adopted the name, the Beanpot, and began taking place in Boston Garden. Coming in to the second tournament in 1954, Boston College was favored to win it all. They had an 8-1 record and were third in the Hockey East. In the first round of the second tournament, BC beat Northeastern 8-5 to advance to the championship game, where they beat Harvard 4-1.

The years following BC’s first win (1956-1963) were known for the BC-Harvard rivalry. In all but one tournament in this seven year span either BC or Harvard was in the final. BC became the first team to win back-to-back titles in 1956 and 1957, and won five titles overall during the seven year span. During this period, the Beanpot began to be played on the “first-two-Mondays-in-February” as it still is to this day. After this era of intense rivalry, it would be another eighteen years until BC and Harvard met again in the tournament title game.

Boston College defenseman Tom "Red" Martin

Boston College defenseman Tom “Red” Martin from P. 30, The Beanpot: Fifty Years of Thrills, Spills, and Chills by Bernard M. Corbett, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

In the midst of the BC-Harvard rivalry, defenseman Tom “Red” Martin became a BC and Beanpot legend. Martin played the entire 1961 championship game except for the two minutes he had to sit out due to a penalty. Not only did Martin play almost the entire game, but he also scored the game winning goal, earning himself tournament MVP.   

BC continued to be a staple of the championship game for the next few years. In 1963, 1964, and 1965, BC won three straight Beanpot titles, becoming the first team to do so. However, BC hit a drought after 1965, and went eleven years without a Beanpot championship. The drought was finally ended in 1976 when a struggling BC team beat BU in the championship game. BC’s struggles of the mid 60s and 70s continued in the early 80s. BC was in the championship game from 1979-1982, but lost each time despite being favorites in many of the years. In 1983, BC was once again in the final, but finally prevailed with a win against Northeastern. The rest of the 80s were a struggle for BC and they went another eleven years without a championship. BC’s tournament win ended an eleven year drought and came about in spectacular fashion. BC came in as the underdog in both of their games and won both games in overtime to bring the Beanpot back to BC.  

KIC Image 3

Boston College goalie and 2010 Beanpot MVP, John Muse from P. 116, Tales from the Boston College Hockey Locker Room by Tom Burke and Reid Oslin, John. J Burns Library, Boston College

After 41 tournaments in the Boston Garden, the tournament continued onto its present home in TD Garden. Although BC struggled in the 90s, with only one win, they rose to prominence once again in the 2000s and 2010s. In the 2000s and 2010s BC has been in 13 championship games, winning 9 of them. From 2010 to 2014, BC won five Beanpot tournaments in a row, and BC’s most recent win came in 2016.

One week from today, fans will gather in the TD Garden to cheer on their teams and watch some good college hockey. In what Jerry York has deemed, “the beginning of trophy season,” each team hopes in the end they will hold up the trophy and have bragging rights over their cross-town rivals. The BC team, students, and fans will be looking for BC’s 21st Beanpot Tournament win.

Natalie Spindler, Boston College Class of 2020 and Burns Library Reading Room Assistant

Works Consulted:

Corbett, Bernard M. The Beanpot: Fifty Years of Thrills, Spills, and Chills. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002        
Burke, Tom, and Reid Oslin. Tales From the Boston College Hockey Locker Room. New York: Sports Publishing, 2014   

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