North Star College Cup & The Beanpot

Let’s compare

by Sam Kraemer

Fans who attended the North Star College Cup on Friday and Saturday saw quality hockey, even though the tournament is only in its second year.

Three of the four participating schools — including No. 1 Minnesota State-Mankato — headed into the tournament nationally ranked. Bemidji State won the championship as the lone unranked school.

If there’s a model the North Star College Cup should follow, it’s the annual Beanpot tournament in Boston.

The ‘State of Hockey’

It’s no question: Minnesota’s collegiate hockey programs carry great tradition.

The University of Minnesota is the permanent host for the event. The other four in-state Division I men’s hockey schools — Bemidji State, Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State and the University of Minnesota-Duluth — are on a rotation for the tournament’s other three spots.

Senior forward Travis Boyd, a native of Hopkins, Minn., said the North Star College Cup gives the Gophers the chance to prove their in-state dominance.

“The main thing about this [tournament] is state pride and making sure we’re the best team in-state,” Boyd said prior to the weekend.

Men’s hockey head coach Don Lucia said he thinks the North Star College Cup is more than just another tournament for the Gophers.

“To me, it’s never been about the Gophers this weekend. It’s been about hockey in our state,” Lucia said. “The stronger hockey is in our state, I think the better it is for everybody.”

WCHA Commissioner Bill Robertson said the North Star College Cup features some of the nation’s top talent, even though it’s young.

“I look at this tournament as the premier college hockey mid-season tournament in the country,” Robertson said. “And year by year, it’s getting bigger and better.”

Beanpot tradition

The Beanpot is a bit different than its Minnesota counterpart.

Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University and Northeastern University battle for the Beanpot every year.

With every school in proximity to Boston, bragging rights are on the line. The teams compete on the first two Mondays in February.

“The Beanpot is comprised of four teams in the same city. That’s what makes it so unique,” said John Buccigross, a SportsCenter anchor and avid hockey fan, in an email interview.

The annual Beanpot tournament began in 1952. And when it began, such longevity wasn’t expected, according to Jack Grinold, associate athletic director, emeritus at Northeastern.

“It was designed as a filler … to help the arena on off nights,” Grinold said in a 2001 interview with the Beanpot’s official website.

Filling the seats

Attendance totals for the North Star College Cup aren’t exactly indicative of the state’s dedication to hockey.

With a seating capacity of more than 18,000 at the Xcel Energy Center, the teams are a couple thousand fans away from filling the building.

Robertson, a former Minnesota Wild executive, said it’s still early to judge the North Star College Cup’s average attendance.

“It’s only year two,” Robertson said. “I’ve seen the Beanpot, and it’s marvelous. This will take some time to get to that level where fan are so interested.”

The TD Garden in Boston often sells out for the Beanpot and is comparable to the Minnesota State High School Tournament.

“The house has been packed since the early ’60s,” Grinold said in a statement on Northeastern’s website. “It’s part of our lore in the city, like the Marathon or several other things.”

—Ben Gotz contributed to this report.