Harvard-BU: A Cross-town Rivalry On and Off the Ice

Jack Parker says it was just “something to write about.” Mark Mazzoleni thinks it “meant nothing.”

If you listen to them, the “Sandwichgate” mini-controversy involving Parker, the Boston University coaching legend, eating his lunch in the stands during a Harvard practice before last spring’s NCAA tournament—much to Mazzoleni’s publicly-aired chagrin—is a dead issue.

“That’s all water down the stream,” Harvard coach Mazzoleni said, no “bridge” reference needed. “Jack Parker is as competitive an individual as there is in college hockey…I have the utmost respect for him.”

Parker said last week that the two have “talked it out.”

“I thought people made a little more out of that than they had to,” Parker said. “Gave them something to write about, I guess.”

Truthfully, it was never that much of an issue in the first place. It happened the day before the NCAA tournament and saw some play in the next day’s Globe and Herald (we at The Crimson were on spring break), but any buzz it created at the Worcester Centrum died that weekend, along with the national title hopes of both teams.

But tonight at Bright Hockey Center, when the Crimson hosts the Terriers in their first meeting since BU ended Harvard’s season with a 6-4 win that spring day in Worcester, you’ll probably hear about it again.

Everyone knows the best rivalries on the ice have a little bit of a rivalry behind the bench, too. And this rivalry is as natural as they come.

Not only do the two men coach schools that are a short bike ride away from one another, they are also known as two of college hockey’s most competitive figures.

“What makes it interesting is the intensity they both have,” said Harvard captain Kenny Smith, a Stoneham, Mass., native who took an official visit to BU. “They’re both extremely passionate coaches. That’s what connects those two.”

Harvard sophomore Tom Walsh, another Massachusetts native (Arlington) who was recruited by Parker and his staff, called Mazzoleni and Parker “two of the most intense coaches around.”

“They’re both great coaches,” Walsh said. “They do everything they can to help their teams win, but when the game’s over, everyone shakes hands and that’s it. They definitely respect one another.

“It’s just two competitive guys who want to win.”

Parker is the more accomplished of the two, with nearly 700 wins, 19 NCAA tournament appearances and two national titles in 31 seasons (all at BU) as a Division I head coach. Mazzoleni is in his 10th season as a D-I head coach, has 151 wins, three NCAA appearances and zero titles.

And then there’s the local factor. Parker, in case you haven’t noticed, is college hockey in these parts, and it’s safe to say the Somerville native is among Boston’s greatest hockey figures—pro, amateur or otherwise.

Parker’s 58, but Walsh said it seems like he’s “been around for a 100 years in Boston.”