The Early Years of the Beanpot
Less Hype, Same Rivalries
The 1955 Beanpot final still pops up in conversation among fans with long memories of Causeway St. history.
There's just 70 seconds left in regulation, with Boston College trailing Harvard, 4-2. But with Ralph (Cooney) Weil1and's Crimson tiring fast, the Eagles strike twice. Captain Dick Dempsey notching the equalizer with just four seconds left. In sudden-death overtime, Harvard commits a penalty and goes a man down; B.C. Coach John (Snooks) Kelly is skating five forwards on the ice.
After a desperate clear from the Crimson net. Harvard forward and Captain Bill Cleary grabs the puck at center ice, heads down the ice on a breakaway and beats Eagle goalie Chick D'Entremont at 1.46 to take the 'Pot for the Crimson.
"Who would think a Harvard player would be at center ice with his team a man down," says Dempsey. "But he was out there, floating around, and was somehow back there for the score. It was probably the most exciting Beanpot ever." Dempsey chuckles. "I still kid Billy about him being at center ice."
Players still around today remember the first Beanpots because of the excitement of playing in the Garden, because it was B.C., B.U., Harvard and (at that time) a much weaker Northeastern team, because it was a local event with mostly Boston-area kids, because it was, as both Cleary, now Harvard's coach, and Dempsey put it, "a real adrenaline pumper" playing in the Beanpot.
The Beanpot Tournament was in its infancy when Cleary won the game with his surprising overtime play. When the tourney began in December 1952, the four local squads played in the Boston Arena, and it wasn't really as big an event as the Boston Garden Beanpots have since become, as both B.C. and Northeastern used the Arena for home games. Later, in the Garden, the four teams played in the unrenovated facility, and the crowds rarely topped 6000.
The Beanpot moved to the Boston Garden in January 1954 and all around the Boston area, kids who had grown up playing together in junior leagues were now playing against each other on the Bruins' ice. "I guess one of the things about the tourney then," remembers Harvard women's hockey Coach John Dooley, who played in three Beanpots for B.U., "was that we didn't have the great national diversity that there is now. We'd be going head-to-head with some of our good friends we'd grown up with. After the tournament, we'd always go out and celebrate. Now, it's like a reunion, seeing all those guys again."
Dooley remembers his most exciting Beanpot, a not-so-friendly contest between B.C. and B.U. in the 1957 final. "I believe all hell broke loose at the end of that game in the Garden. I remember shaking hands with someone and ending up with a hockey stick over the head. As the teams were leaving the ice it ended up in a brawl."
The rivalry between B.U. and B.C. was just as intense then as it is now. "B.U. had one of the strongest teams around. And, if I remember correctly." Dooley says, "we'd beaten Harvard twice that year. B.C. had a pretty good team, too, and there was a tremendous amount of rivalry between all three., especially B.U. and B.C. stemming over from football." So when B.C. downed B.U. in overtime, some of the players just couldn't control their anger. "Police on corted both teams out that evening and there wasn't as much partying that night." Dooley says.
Northeastern rarely comes up in conversations about the early says of the Beanpot. The Huskies "weren't really the feature game," says Dick Cavanaugh, captain of Northesten's 1957 squad. "We didn't have such of a chance of winning. When we won a couple of years ago [in 1980], after all those years of going to watch the Beanpot, it was great, through."
Cavanaugh recalls one contest when N.U. upset Harvard just before the Citizen headed to the NCAA rourment in Colorado. "I guess it was right after the finals or something, but we best thews, 4-2. It was always a big deal playing Harvard: I always went in thinking we should win, but we just didn't. One game they were in double figures against me."
Bob Cleary, brother of the Harvard coach and captain of the Crimson in 1957, felt Harvard was always at a distinct disadvantage because the Beanpot followed finals. "One vear we had bestess Northeastern, 12-0, right before Clarymas break, but at the Beanpot they best us." he says.
"The great thing about playing is that Beanpot then really wasn't the crowds." he adds. "It was being in the Gardon, playing on the same ice the Brone avaid. And then, as now, the Beanpot was a nonson in itself. It determined who the best team in Boston was. So it was always a lot of fun and excitement."