To count the number of things changed by the COVID-19 pandemic would take hours as we turn our calendars to February 2021. The sports world has seen its share of changes across the world; leagues in bubbles, leagues changing schedules on the fly; daily testing for personnel and players; players opting out; collegiate eligibility changes; the list can go on. However today, on the first Monday in February, our little Boston pocket of college hockey feels perhaps its biggest change since the pandemic struck- the first season without a Beanpot since its inception in 1952.
After reading this excellent article by Steve Buckley on what players and coaches will do these two nights without the Beanpot, I was inspired to write a retrospective for our blog team and what the Beanpot has meant for us the last ten years. While only two of us write for the site, there’s a team of 4 individuals at the NU Hockey Blog, representing the classes of 2016 (3x) and 2017, and alumni of the NU Doghouse as well as the WRBB radio station.
First Memories– Even though our blog team overlaps years considerably, everyone’s first introduction to the Beanpot was different, though with different levels of emotion attachment.
“John (explitive) Muse,” said Zach Gordon ’15. Zach was a freshman in 2010-11, and the excitement and pace of the 2011 Beanpot final sealed his fate as a Huskies die-hard. Ultimately the Huskies would lose 7-6 in overtime to Muse’s Boston College Eagles, who were en route to a national championship, in a game that is lauded as one of the best championships in tournament history.
“First memory is watching the 2011 championship with acceptances to both schools in hand, and rooting for NU then being sad when they lost to BC. Damn what a game,” remembers Ryan Fallon ’16. Fallon has the distinction of being an alumni of the WRBB broadcast booth, where he called three Beanpots including the “I sounded like someone shot my dog” call after the Patrick Brown game-winning goal after falling to the ice in 2014.
For myself (NU ’16) and Mike Downie (NU ’17), our first experiences were centered in front of the television. I watched my first Beanpot in 2012 with friends who did not want to pay to go to the game, and watched BC dominate Northeastern 7-1. The following year, both myself and Downie watched the magical Monday Night Roy game where freshman Kevin Roy scored a hat trick to propel a scrappy, underdog Northeastern team to the Beanpot final against BC. We both attended in person, and were subject to an Eagles 6- 3 victory.
While all of us had losses engrained as the first Beanpot experiences, the passion, the energy, and the experience of The Beanpot solidified in each of us an unyielding desire to stay involved, stay passionate, and stay intensely loyal to the Northeastern program in the years to come.
Favorite Memory– Unanimously, the streak-ending Beanpot win of 2018 was the group’s favorite Beanpot memory. Being there in person, all as grizzled alumni watching in the throngs of Northeastern students, alumni, and faculty, made it easily the most emotional experience of our lives as fans. After living through so much heartbreak in so little time, and saying for years “we just want ONE,” little did we know we’d get to experience that victorious feeling two more times in the next two years.
Pre-2018, however, the Beanpot often ended with Northeastern misery. So in attempts to cull the pain, The DogHouse would find ways to keep even the driest of consolation games fun in front of the empty cavern of TD Garden. “Whitney House game, 2012” was the first game Zach mentioned, where the game was played a day after the famous pop star Whitney Houston passed away. In her honor, The DogHouse spent ample time belting out her hits, including “I Will Always Love You.” Downie similarly says “consolation Disney game is a good one,” of a consolation game where the students would spend time conducting a Disney sing-along that drew acclaim from the reporters who were taking in the game. Hey, when there’s merely hundreds of people in the arena and they’re nearly all students, you have to find some way to entertain yourselves while watching the game.
Similarly, empty arenas allow for nearly every chant to be heard clearly, even in an arena as large as the TD Garden. Davis remembers in 2016’s consolation game starting the classic “North-Eastern” chant going across TD Garden ice, usually a staple at Matthews Arena or during Beanpot games when the students are more tightly packed together. Instead, Davis took a contingent of NU students and friends from other schools to the opposing side of the upper deck, and let the chants fly over 200 feet in the air to make the Garden ring as a Northeastern home arena. All while Northeastern throttled Harvard 5-1. Even in consolation games, victory makes everything better.
Miscellaneous Memories– The Beanpot has a special way to turn unheralded players into cult heroes following memorable performances in the games. Two years after Monday Night Roy was born in 2013, we saw the birth of Wednesday Morning Darou in 2015.
The game had been pushed to the first Tuesday of February due to the first of a string of snowstorms that would pummel the city that month, dubbed Smowmageddon 2015. The Huskies and Eagles played the second game of the night, following a historic double overtime game between BU and Harvard. The puck did not drop on the second game until 9:25pm, and the teams were deadlocked at 2-2 late in the third. Dustin Darou, a junior defenseman with exactly one goal in his career, would gather the puck at the blue line and fling it on net, passing it through a sea of bodies and into Thatcher Demko’s net just before the clock struck midnight. By the time fans and players filtered out of TD Garden, it was Wednesday morning, and the Huskies were going to their third straight Beanpot Championship Game.
Other Beanpot memories are mere snapshots in time, or moments that endeared a player to fans forever. Josh Manson’s legendary hip check on BU forward Sahir Gill still rings as the greatest hip we’ve seen in the last 10 years, and a classic example of Hockey East officiating calling a penalty on a legal hit just because one player got their soul knocked out from them. Kevin Roy has two different instances of “Dammit I’m scoring and you can’t stop me,” one from the 2013 Final against BC and one in 2015 against BU (before another clutch goal from Darou to send the game to an infamous overtime).
More recent examples feature Jordan Harris scoring the overtime winner against BU to keep the current streak alive, in a game where the Huskies’ hearts were gashed in a last-second goal by Trevor Zegras; Tyler Madden’s overtime goal and subsequent celebration that birthed arguably the best nickname in school history, Mr. Bright Lights; fan-favorite senior Paddy Schule sniping one over the shoulder of Joseph Woll in the 2019 championship; and senior defenseman Trevor Owens scoring just the 6th goal of his career by sniping over Jake Oettinger’s shoulder in the 2018 win, a goal that would prove to be the game-winner.
There just is no tournament in college hockey as special as The Beanpot. And each of the four schools has thousands of fans, alumni, current students, and faculty that have vivid, powerful memories associated with the tournament, each of them strengthening their connections to their schools. In any normal year, we spend these first two Mondays in February getting ready to watch our teams play for city bragging rights.
As with so much of life during a pandemic, we have to adjust today. But as we change the present and reflect on the past, we also know that a brighter future is on the horizon, and with it, the Beanpot Tournament will return and bring with it new moments, new heroes, and new memories that will last a lifetime.