Column: Connecticut Beanpot
The Beanpot is the greatest tradition in college hockey.
Every February, the four biggest schools in Boston - Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Harvard - square off over the course of two Monday nights at TD Garden to determine the best team in the city.
The tradition that goes along with the Beanpot is breathtaking. The Garden is divided into four sections, one for each school. Each school's fans wear a particular color: BC wears gold, BU wears red, Northeastern wears black and Harvard wears crimson. The bands battle each other, the fans try to outdo each other and at the end, the winner gets their name attached to the banner that hangs in the Garden's rafters all year.
This past weekend, a new Beanpot-like tournament emerged in college hockey, as No. 1 Minnesota proved not only to be the best team in the nation at the moment, but more importantly the best team in Minnesota. The Gophers won the inaugural North Star College Cup, defeating No. 14 Minnesota-Duluth and No. 6 St. Cloud State in a tournament that also included No. 24 Minnesota State.
With so many hockey teams in one state or city, tournaments such as these can be a great opportunity for schools to come together and create a spectacle, and that is exactly what should be happening in Connecticut.
At the end of December, four teams gathered at the XL Center for the UConn Classic, a two-day tournament featuring Connecticut rivals UConn, Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac along with UMass-Amherst. The lone Division I school from Connecticut that was absent for the event was Yale, the 2013 national champion.
UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh, Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo and Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold, whose Bobcats lost to Yale in the National Championship Game, all expressed their interest in beginning an all-Connecticut tournament. With three out of the four state coaches showing interest, it appears that the lone holdout is Keith Allain and Yale.
"Figures," College Hockey News writer Mike McMahon said in response to my tweet this weekend about Yale not being on board yet.
What is the hold up? Why are the Bulldogs unwilling to get this thing, let's call it the Nutmeg Cup for now, started?
It seems like Yale is the only bump in the road right now. There is an arena, the XL Center. There is media coverage from all over the state, and such a tournament would also attract national attention.
Yale plays a majority of its nonconference games against ECAC opponents. Quinnipiac is one of those ECAC opponents, but like UConn and Sacred Heart this year at the UConn Classic, it can be worked out that if last year's two national finalists were to meet in the first round, it could count as a conference game. If it's UConn or Sacred Heart, that is a nonconference game against either a Hockey East opponent or a hit-or-miss Atlantic Hockey side.
That will help Yale and Quinnipiac's schedule. Playing Yale and Quinnipiac will help Sacred Heart's schedule. Playing Yale and Quinnipiac makes UConn's schedule even stronger than it will already be when the Huskies move into the elite class of college hockey.
Connecticut loves its hockey, and no one loves it more than Gov. Dannel Malloy, who has his mind on bringing the NHL back to Hartford (spoiler: it isn't coming). For now, he will settle on having UConn playing in Hartford until a rink is built on campus to replace the Freitas Ice Forum, but he would undoubtedly love to add a two-day hockey fest with the state's four Division I teams taking center stage.
It is time to have a tournament in Connecticut. College hockey is getting bigger and bigger in the state, and with four teams in such close proximity, this is the kind of thing that could really put it on the map.
Picture it: 17,000 people filling into the XL Center, which is now divided into four sections. The four sections are different colors - white for Yale, gold for Quinnipiac, blue for UConn and red for Sacred Heart. In each section is the school's band. In each section, students are trying to outdo each other. On TV, many more people are watching the spectacle in high definition, thinking, "I wish I was in Hartford right now." What can possibly be better?
But before we can get there, all four teams need to be on board.
Paging Yale, all eyes are on you.
Follow Tim on Twitter @Tim_Fontenault
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