Our Hill, Their Beans: Bringing a Boston and College Hockey Institution To Belfast

maybe the problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans, but this is our hill, and these are our beans.
Leslie Nielsen: “The Naked Gun”

Today, a plan to move a cooking utensil from Boston to Belfast has caused violent reaction on hockey Twitter on both sides of the Atlantic-or more accurately, over a tournament that involves four teams competing for a cooking utensil. This is the utensil in question:

The Boston Beanpot. Never has so much legend been packed into a cooking container.

It’s the Beanpot-a trophy which has almost mythical status to anyone in New England. Based on the traditional cooking utensil associated with New England and particularly the city of Boston, the silver trophy is awarded to the winner of a college hockey tournament between four New England colleges-Boston University (BU), Boston College (BC), Northeastern and Harvard. The tournament has run since 1952 and takes place traditionally over two Monday nights in February at the TD Garden in Boston-the first Monday is the semi finals (which are different each year as every team rotates its semi-final opponent between the other three) and the second Monday is the third/fourth place game and the tournament final itself.

The Beanpot is a winter tradition like few others in Boston-with all four schools having hockey as one of their main varsity sports and some of the most passionate fanbases in the NCAA, any game between them is going to be a good one-but add to that local rivalry and the almost volcanic hatred between the BC Eagles and the BU Terriers (who between them have won 48 of the 62 competitions, with BU leading the field with 29 victories), and it’s going to be something special.

It’s one of the most-anticipated college-hockey tournaments in North America, and to a Bostonian (who are notoriously protective about their city and its traditions and have more than likely attended one of the four universities), the Beanpot is one of the social and sporting events of the winter season, with the games being played in front of sold-out arenas, broadcast on TV and radio across New England and tickets being scrambled for like gold dust.

If you’re looking for a British sporting comparison, the Beanpot is to New Englanders what the FA Cup Final is to English football fans-a sacred tradition of their season that always takes place around the same time, at (barring exceptional circumstances) the same venue, always means something massive whatever else is going on in the season, and is one of THE sporting events to be seen at. It has its own lore, its own legends (for every White Horse Final the FA Cup has, the Beanpot has the Blizzard of ’78, for example), and its own mystique.

Now, there are tentative plans to bring this tournament to the UK-specifically, to Belfast. And Boston’s mayor is backing the idea.

The Odyssey Trust, owner of the EIHL’s Belfast Giants, wants to bring the Beanpot to the Odyssey Arena in 2016, moving it from its Boston home for the first time in its 63-year history.

Could the Odyssey host one of college hockey’s showpieces?

There is precedent for Boston and Belfast connecting through ice-hockey…the Odyssey Arena has seen the NHL’s Boston Bruins take the ice against an invitational Belfast squad made up of the top players in the EIHL back in 2010…for a few glorious minutes the EIHL even led the NHL thanks to a goal from Jade Galbraith before the Bruins shifted up to…oh, maybe third gear and overwhelmed them. With Boston and Belfast recently becoming “twin cities”, there is potential to forge closer links between the two cities and Boston mayor Marty Walsh is in favour of the idea. Speaking to the BBC he said:

“In light of the recent Sister City twinning between Belfast and Boston, which is underpinned by a longstanding connection between the two cities through ice hockey, I think it would be wonderful to bring the Beanpot to Belfast and am lending my support to the campaign.”

Naturally, the Giants organisation are overjoyed at the chance, as Robert Fitzgerald, CEO of the owners the Odyssey Trust, says:

“Bringing this tournament to the Odyssey Arena is ice hockey’s answer to bringing Notre Dame to Croke Park (in Dublin, for an NCAA football game last year) – the impact would be massive and would bring a major economic boost not only to local sport, but to hospitality, tourism and culture in Northern Ireland.

“Ice hockey has played an important role in fostering strong relationships between Belfast and Boston and bringing this high-profile tournament to Northern Ireland would further cement that relationship and celebrate the links between the two cities.”

Whilst on this side of the pond the news has been greeted with joy (put it this way…I’d swim the Irish Sea if I had to to get a chance of seeing one of the most famous college hockey tournaments on earth) and there is no doubt that the potential exposure for Belfast, the Giants and indeed hockey to the UK and Northern Ireland raises exciting possibilities for us hockey fans on this side of the pond (especially if you’re a Northern Irish local) let’s just say the reaction in Boston and indeed hockey fans in North America has…not been quite as positive.

  1h

I’m getting on a plane to fight the mayor of Boston. Belfast can’t have the Beanpot. I’m too angry for witty commentary.

1m

Send it to Belfast, and it’s just another tournament. Call it what you want. It ain’t the Beanpot.

no.

That’s just absurd. Here’s a tip: don’t play the in a place where they still call it “ice hockey”.

How can anyone go on with their everyday lives right now?! There is a national crisis. They want to take the Beanpot to BELFAST!

I’m glad that 100% of the boston NCAA hockey fan community’s response to this is just…NO.

So, that’s a flavour of the reaction in Boston (and indeed elsewhere). What about in the UK? Granted, as one of those rare breed of Brits who considers waking up at 3:30 am for a Pacific time playoff game perfectly normal and gets annoyed when he can’t watch the Memorial Cup, I’m up for this one…but how up is the UK hockey community on what’s coming to their shores?:

So today; Hands up who had to google what a beanpot is?!

@fourthlinewing

Belfast are bidding to host the Beanpot Tournament in 2016. If that happens, I’m going. No question whatsoever.

S

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