USCHO GAME OF THE WEEK: For Beanpot teams, winning the title ‘kind of tops off your college career’

Casey Fitzgerald (BC - 5) - The Boston College Eagles tied the visiting University of New Hampshire Wildcats 2-2 on Friday, November 16, 2018, at Kelley Rink in Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Melissa Wade)
Casey Fitzgerald hopes to lead Boston College to its first Beanpot championship since 2014 (photo: Melissa Wade).

The last time Northeastern won the Beanpot in back-to-back seasons was 1984 and 1985.

Jim Madigan was a junior and senior on those two teams.

It’s been 30 years since Northeastern entered a Beanpot as defending Beanpot champions in February of 1989. At that time, Jim Madigan was an assistant coach.

Now, 30 years later, as the head coach, Madigan leads his defending champion Huskies into the Beanpot and looks to do what no Northeastern team has done since he, himself, donned the black and red sweater and that’s win consecutive Beanpot titles.

“Defending Beanpot champions — we haven’t heard those words in a long time,” said Madigan. “I remember those words being a junior-slash-senior on those teams in ’84 and ’85. We know we’d like to say that again next year. We know we’ve got our hands full, but I like the ring to it.”

Northeastern victory last year actually capped off the rarest of quadrennials for the tournament which turns 67 on Monday night. It was just the second time in the 66 years in which all four teams won the tournament in a four-year span, the other being 1980 through 1983.

Maybe not fans of the teams two perennial power Boston University and Boston College, but many other might say that having all four teams win in this four-year stretch could go a long way to reinvigorating the tournament’s popularity in a city that, of late, is dominated by professional sports.

“The Beanpot was dominated by BU and BC up until Harvard won in ’17 and we won in ’18,” said Madigan. “For us it was well documented that it had been 30 years, but for Harvard it was 24 years. So you look back over that period of time there were only two teams that shared it and they each went for runs of three, four, five years at a time and they’d go back and forth.

“So it needed to be refreshed and it needed Harvard and Northeastern to do its part. That provides more excitement, interest in the Beanpot that any team can win it.

“I can remember it being involved as a player and coach in the ‘80s and all [four schools] won it. That’s when it was at its greatest because each Beanpot, the first Monday and second Monday, you never knew who was going to win.”

The recent results actually shift a certain pressure that for years was on Northeastern and Harvard and puts it on Boston University and Boston College.

The Terriers have won 30 of the 66 tournaments and Boston College has won 20. BU had won 12 of 15 titles in a run ending in 2009. BC won five straight from 2010 to 2014.

Now you have a BC team that hasn’t won a game in the tournament since the 2015 consolation game and BU, whose seniors could become one of the rare classes to leave Commonwealth Avenue without hoisting the Pot ‘o Beans around the Garden ice.

“It’s unfortunate [to not win],” said BU senior Bobo Carpenter, whose Terriers team has lost the Beanpot final for three straight years. “You hear from past players and former classmates who left and never got a chance to win it. It would just kind of tops off your college career.”

Even with the departure of David Quinn from Boston University to the New York Rangers, the addition of Albie O’Connell behind the BU bench means that all four head coaches remain alumni of not just their programs but also the Beanpot. And O’Connell remembers how quickly the importance of the tournament was engrained into his head as a player.

“As a former player, [former BU] coach [Jack] Parker basically instilled to us that the Beanpot is the most important trophy. That became so important to each of the players.

“Most of the guys at that time were locals so they grew up watching it. Now with all four teams, it more world-wide teams with [players] from Canada and Europe and throughout the United States. So we make it important for the guys right away.”

Indeed the Beanpot is more of a cult event, like wanting to attend a Rush concert for Canadians who grew up in the late ‘90s. Individually, you’re excited beyond belief, but if you tell some of your friends and expect them to know about it, you might get some strange looks.

“The Beanpot is unique to Boston in many ways,” said Madigan. “It’s an event like the Boston Marathon, like opening day at Fenway Park, like the first Sunday in February that we like to call ‘Patriots Super Bowl.’

“The Beanpot is part of Boston fabric. It’s an athletic must. It’s part of the alumni body and administration of each school.

“Everyone has a tradition of what they do before the first Monday and where they go out to dinner. It’s been going on for 67 years. It has cache in the city of Boston. It’s special to play in. It’s even that more special to win it.”