Beanpot at Fenway Park? Don’t Hold Your Breath

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Beanpot at Fenway Park? Don't Hold Your Breath There's always been a natural curiosity in wondering what would happen if you took college hockey's most historic tournament and moved it into one of the most historic buildings in sports.

That idea was taken a step further this year, when Boston College and Boston University took to the ice at Fenway for a memorable matchup that came a week after the Bruins hosted the Flyers for the NHL Winter Classic.

As the Terriers and Eagles walked off the ice and into the dugouts, the natural question arose: Could the Beanpot ever make the move to America's Most Beloved Ballpark?

In a word, no.

"The Beanpot has its own operational and organizational structure and I would never imagine that leaving the Garden," said Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna in January. "Really, the Garden is one of the partners, just as the four schools are. So as much as I'm a fan of outdoor hockey, I think the Beanpot belongs in the Garden."

Last week, the coaches seemed to share the same sentiment.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Jack Parker said. "We like the Garden and the Beanpot."

Such an answer shouldn't be surprising from Parker, whose Terriers have won 29 titles and are playing in the championship game once again this year. Obviously, the veteran coach with three national championships and more than 800 career wins isn't eager for change.

And he wasn't the only one. Harvard coach Ted Donato, a Boston native and former member of the Bruins, said that while he wouldn't doubt the upside of a move to Fenway, he wasn't ready to do away with years of tradition.

"It'd be interesting," Donato said of any possible move to Fenway Park. "I think there'd be a lot of great things associated with that. I think that the tournament already has a great history and I think something like that, I'll leave to people with a little more experience."

Donato spoke to the importance the tournament can have on a player, especially those who hail from the area.

"There's a sense of accomplishment in just getting out on the ice in the Beanpot," he said. "I grew up watching it, played many street hockey games divvying up the sides and re-enacting the Beanpot. To finally have that opportunity [as a player] is special. With the television coverage, with the venue, there's so many ways in which this is a special, special moment. Quite often, [it's] one of the highlights of a player's career. So it's special to me. I have great memories."

Bob Sweeney, who as a player at Boston College was the tournament's MVP in 1983 as a freshman and was inducted into the Beanpot Hall of Fame this year, agreed that the tournament was special in its own right and that the building played a large role in that.

"When you skate out there in the old Garden," Sweeney said, "and you would see the spoked B, which everybody alludes to … this is the same ice that Bobby Orr used to skate on, Ray Bourque and all the other great Bruins before him. And to have the chance and the opportunity to play where these guys played was just a great experience."

Obviously, the building has changed, with the historic Boston Garden with the newer TD Garden. Yet it was clear in the thoughts of those who shared lifelong Beanpot memories that skating on the Bruins' ice was equally important as the tournament itself.

In any case, the idea of moving the annual tournament outdoors is largely a pie-in-the-sky thought to begin with. This year's outdoor game — which was preceded by a Hockey East women's game as well — only took place because the NHL already had a rink in place. That's a luxury the city likely won't be afforded in future years.

Still, Bertagna said he hopes that Hockey East will again play outdoors, even if it's not for the Beanpot.

"From our side, we're very eager to see it continue, if for no other reason than to spread the wealth and let other schools experience it," Bertagna said after referencing the disappointment that a number of schools felt for not being able to participate this year.

"I think the Red Sox have shown that they're an aggressive organization, that they like to bring as many different events into the ballpark. I think there's been a sense of good feeling ? But I think in fairness to them, they really need to step back when it's over to see what the economics were, what the effects were on the field, and to judge if there's a saturation point this. They would know better than I."

The general feeling around those involved in the tournament seemed to be that while playing at Fenway would be a memorable moment, the Beanpot is not in need of any added oomph, so to speak.

"The game at Fenway was so unique," Parker said. "It was certainly a
game you wanted to win instead of lose because it's going to be a
memory that people are going to have for the rest of their lives, but I
don't think it'll have the same effect as a win in the Beanpot would
have."

Donato shared similar feelings.

"As a Boston guy, I think I would trade some [other success] in for a Beanpot championship," he said.

Would playing the tournament at Fenway Park alter its importance? Maybe, maybe not. But it doesn't look like that answer will be coming any time soon, if ever.

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