BC Favorite in 52nd Beanpot

Let the trash talking begin.

Festivities officially got underway Wednesday afternoon for the 52nd annual Beanpot Hockey Tournament, college hockey’s longest-running and most well-known in-season tournament, with the Beanpot Luncheon held at Legends Restaurant inside the host establishment. Tournament play will begin next Monday night, February 2, with the semifinal round.

This year’s edition will feature Boston University, a team characterized by head coach Jack Parker as “on a roller coaster ride,” against Northeastern, which began the year 0-9-2 yet is 7-2-2 since ending its 11-game losing streak to open the year, facing off in the first semi-final scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m.

No. 2 Boston College, the on-paper favorite, will face Harvard, a club that hasn’t been to the Beanpot final since 1998, in Monday’s nightcap.

The luncheon featured commentary by captains and coaches from each of the four schools, along with the announcement of this year’s Beanpot Hall of Fame inductees and a keynote address by former Boston University Terrier and current Boston Bruins head coach Mike Sullivan.

Parker, coach of the two-time defending Beanpot champion Terriers, put the spotlight on Boston College, tabbing them as this year’s favorite. But as Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder countered towards Parker, “You’re the favorite until you’re knocked off,” referring not only to the fact that BU has won the last two Beanpots, but that they have dominated the tournament, winning 25 of the 51 and losing only once in the past decade.

This year’s field is one of the more unique in the fact that Boston College is the only team nationally ranked. Boston University and Harvard have both enjoyed numerous weeks in the national polls, but both clubs have slipped from the rankings over the last two months with BU posting a 7-9-6 overall record and Harvard sitting at 8-9-2.

Add in Northeastern’s 7-11-4 mark and not only is BC the only nationally-ranked club, they’re also the only club above .500.

A tradition that began ten years ago as part of the Beanpot lunch is to name two inductees into the Beanpot Hall of Fame. As long time Beanpotter and legendary Northeastern Sports Information Director Jack Grinold noted in announcing this year’s recipients, the 2004 Hall of Fame class could be called the “year of the dufflebag,” with former Harvard goaltender Bob Bland and former Boston College netminder Jim Logue recognized as this year’s inductees.

Both Logue and Bland each won two Beanpots and were respectively the first and second goaltenders named as tourney MVPs. Both players grew up in the Boston area — Bland a lifelong Brookline, Mass., resident and Logue a native of Melrose, Mass. They will be officially enshrined in a ceremony between Monday’s semifinal games.

In delivering the keynote address for the afternoon, Bruins coach Mike Sullivan characterized the Beanpot as the “essence of our lives,” by bringing together “community and excellence.”

Sullivan spoke for nearly ten minutes about his memories of the legendary tournament, including celebrating victory among the fans at BU’s well-known on-campus bar, the Dugout. He also shared thoughts of the Beanpot rivalry that exists in his own family, having had a brother play at Northeastern and a brother and sister attend Boston College.

Steve Nazro, long-time tournament director for the Beanpot, emceed the afternoon event during which he made a surprise announcement that tickets for the event remain available as some allocated to the participating schools were returned. The Beanpot has been played in front of a sellout crowd since 1961 with one exception, 1978, when the famous Blizzard of ’78 not only kept the event from being played in front of a capacity crowd, it also postponed the championship game for nearly a month.

Nazro also announced that in addition to the New England Sports Network televising the tournament throughout New England, the games will be televised on In Demand high-definition cable (INHD2).

The winners of Monday’s semifinals will play for the Beanpot title the following Monday, February 9, at 8:00 p.m. following the tournament’s consolation game at 5:00 p.m. Boston University has won the most titles (25) followed by Boston College (12), Harvard (10) and Northeastern (four).