Sunday, February 7, 2010
The Beanpot’s identical twin
Four decades younger, the Beanpot trophy’s replica shines as bright as the original
By Jon Brodkin, BU 2000
On Monday night, a famous, sparkling trophy called the Beanpot will be awarded to the best college hockey team in Boston.
The trophy will be instantly recognizable to fans of Boston University or Boston College, but it is not the same one skated around the ice by the heroic likes of Mike Eruzione, Jack O’Callahan, John Cunniff, Wayne Turner and Chris Drury.
Although the tournament began in 1952, the actual trophy presented to modern day winners was made less than five years ago. After decades of wear and tear, and the occasional incident involving a winning team misplacing the trophy, Beanpot tournament officials decided the original pot was too precious to risk any further.
The original is in good shape, says Steve Nazro, tournament director and vice president of events at the TD Garden, but “it’s too valuable” to actually give to the winners for a full year. “To have any chance of having it stolen, or held hostage would be a big deal,” he says.
The Beanpot’s history features stories of players using the trophy as an ashtray, players throwing it out a dorm window during a celebration party, and at least one winning school simply having no idea where the trophy was when it came time to return it a week before the next year’s tournament.
The stories may be true and they may be false, but they add to the lore of the tournament and the silver pot, just as mishaps involving the Stanley Cup enrich that trophy’s history.
The Beanpot has also served as a touchstone in emotionally charged circumstances, such as when the victorious Northeastern Huskies presented the trophy in 1984 to Terry Flaman, the cancer-stricken son of their coach who, sitting in a wheelchair, had given the team a pre-game pep talk. Then in the late 1990s the BU Terriers celebrated several Beanpot wins with Travis Roy, who had been paralyzed in October 1995 in his first game as a freshman.
As much as the Beanpot meant to players and coaches, at some point Boston Garden officials stopped letting the winners take the Beanpot home with them in case it was lost or damaged. I remember hearing about one team – I think it was the 2001 Boston College Eagles - whose players and coaches were boarding the bus expecting to take the trophy back to campus and were surprised to learn that was not allowed.
Nazro and his team solved the problem a few months before the 2006 tournament. Beanpot officials decided the best way to allow the winning team to keep the trophy was to create a replica that would look exactly like the original, down to the smallest detail. That replica, created by Marlborough Foundry Inc. in Marlborough, Mass, is the one that will be presented on the Garden ice Monday night and given to the winners to keep until next year’s tournament.
In late 2005, Garden officials brought the beanpot portion of the Beanpot trophy – the bottom part which has engravings of the yearly winners was removed - to Marlborough Foundry, where a mold of the original was created. Fittingly, the metal for a replica was poured into the mold by Steve Postizzi, a 33-year-old who played high school hockey and attended the Beanpot as a child.
“I wanted to make sure I was the guy who poured the metal into the mold, so I could say that,” Postizzi says.
While the original Beanpot was made of iron, the replica is aluminum, and is thus quite a bit lighter than the trophy skated around in decades gone by. While Nazro says there is nothing wrong with the original, Postizzi’s expert eye noticed the handles appear to have been snapped off in the past, and other repaired cracks were apparent when looking inside the Beanpot.
“It had been broken a couple times,” Postizzi says. “You can only weld and repair things so often before you start to diminish the integrity of the pot. … They wanted us to make a replica because the original was dropped too many times and they didn’t want to risk it any further.”
The original trophy’s exterior was buffed to keep it smooth, and overall Postizzi says “it was in good condition, but they didn’t want any more dings and dents in it.”
Creating the new Beanpot cost about $700 or $800, mostly for labor, and took a few days. Marlborough Foundry kept the original Beanpot for a couple of weeks in total, including time for planning, says Postizzi, who has worked in the family foundry business since the age of 18. Once Marlborough Foundry was done with the replica Beanpot it was passed on to Lubin’s trophy shop in Newton, where engraving and other final details were taken care of.
I’ve attended the Beanpot nearly every year since 1995 and never learned until this month that the iconic trophy had been replaced, because the story has largely remained untold.
Nazro says the replacement of the original pot hasn’t received much attention, other than a one-paragraph piece that appeared in Boston Magazine in February 2007. That article, titled “The Beanpot’s Trusty Body Double,” says the original trophy “is still the crowd pleaser, since that’s what the winning team hoists for its celebratory skate.” If the article is correct, then the only reason the replica was created was so the winning team would have a copy to keep in its trophy case while the original stayed at the garden and was presented to the winners on the ice.
Nazro says it’s possible that was true in 2007, but is certainly not true today – the replica is definitely the one handed out on the ice to the winning team.
“The replica is locked in a closet with the other awards, ready to be given out,” Nazro told me Friday.
Postizzi was told by Garden officials that the replica would replace the original for on-ice presentations once it was ready, so it may be that that the last time the original was presented was in February 2005, when Ray Bourque’s son Chris won the trophy for BU with an overtime goal against Northeastern.
You might think tournament participants would be upset about the original Beanpot being replaced, but Nazro says they “were thrilled … now they can display it in their trophy case.”
After winning the NCAA Division 1 ice hockey championship in April 2009, Boston University held several events, including a parade and banner-raising ceremony, showing off all six trophies the team won the previous season. Without the Beanpot replica, those celebrations might have been missing one very important trophy.
There is certainly precedent for famous trophies being replaced with replicas. The FA Cup, the oldest football (you know, soccer) competition in the world has awarded a replica trophy since 1992. And there are actually three Stanley Cups: the fragile original, first presented in 1893 and now encased in glass in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto; the “presentation cup” awarded to winners since the early 1960s; and a replica later created for display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Marlborough Foundry was almost asked to make another replica Beanpot trophy, when the Hall of Fame called the Garden about getting a Beanpot for display. For reasons unclear to Nazro, the deal was never completed.
“We responded and offered to do whatever they wanted. … We got all excited about it but they [the Hall of Fame officials] never followed through,” Nazro said.
Surprisingly, it’s not even clear when the original Beanpot was created. The first rendition of the tournament took place in December 1952 at Boston Arena (now, Matthews Arena, Northeastern’s home stadium) and its official name was the New England Invitational Hockey Tournament. Even though there wasn’t a trophy that first year, the 1952 contest featuring BU, BC, Harvard and Northeastern was nicknamed the “Beanpot” in press stories, presumably as a reference to Boston’s love of baked beans.
At some point after the tournament moved to Boston Garden, which occurred in January 1954, a beanpot was acquired to serve as a trophy. Nazro says he doesn’t know which year the beanpot was purchased.
College hockey historian Bernard Corbett wrote the best history of the Beanpot in 2002, a book called “The Beanpot: 50 years of Thrills, Spills, and Chills.”
The book quotes Harvard official Carroll Getchell as saying “do you know we went for a few years without a trophy? Then finally, one, day, [Boston Garden owner] Walter [Brown] said, ‘Why the devil don’t we have a Beanpot Trophy?’ So now we have this large silver Beanpot.”
“The trophy problem was solved by legendary Garden troubleshooter Tony Nota, who managed to acquire one,” Corbett’s book continues.
The earliest picture of a Beanpot trophy featured in the book was of Red Martin, Boston College’s “58-minute man” who won the tournament in 1959 and 1961. He is pictured holding an actual ceramic beanpot.
“After using a humble ceramic jug for more than a decade, Beanpot officials finally switched to a proper silver version, cast from the original,” Boston Magazine’s February 2007 article states.
Photographs from various sources show that the silver-colored version fans know today has been in use since at least 1965, the year current BC coach Jerry York first suited up for the Eagles and one season before BU coach Jack Parker first skated for the Terriers.
1966 was the first year in which the winning team not only accepted the trophy, but also skated it around the ice to show off to fans in the student section. BU senior captain Dennis O’Connell is credited with starting the tradition.
The trophy was originally fitted with a single ring below the pot to engrave the names of winning schools, and a second ring was added in the mid-1980s, making the trophy noticeably larger.
The Beanpot wasn’t always handled with the same level of care it enjoys today. Postizzi says one of the Garden officials told him the Beanpot was lost in the 80s and eventually found in a bush outside a BC dorm. BC only won the Beanpot once in the 1980s, so if the story is true that would have occurred in 1983.
Postizzi was also told some players used the trophy as an ashtray. Nazro has heard the same story.
“That’s lore. It may be true. I can’t say it isn’t,” Nazro says.
Nazro confirms that one school did lose the trophy. Garden officials called the school a week before the tournament and it turned out no one knew where the trophy was. It was eventually found “in some obscure case,” he says.
Nazro says that occurred before his time as the tournament director, which started in the early 1970s. If Nazro knows which school actually lost the trophy, he’s not saying publicly.
The stories mirror some of those told about the Stanley Cup, which has allegedly been lost and stolen various times, used as an ashtray, thrown into multiple swimming pools and, disturbingly, used as both a receptacle for chewing gum and urine, though one would hope not at the same time.
Those indignities won’t be happening to the original Beanpot any time soon. Most of the year it sits in a glass case with other Beanpot memorabilia at the TD Garden, on display for anyone with club level tickets. Nazro says no one’s ever actually tried to steal it, and a combination of alarms and 24-hour security would make it quite difficult.
The original was taken out of its case for the pre-Beanpot luncheon and “it’s in my office right now because we often get people who want to shoot it between now and the tournament,” Nazro says. It’s no surprise so many people want a picture of the Beanpot. Winning the Beanpot isn’t as great an achievement as prevailing in the Hockey East or NCAA tournaments, but the trophy itself may be the most unique and aesthetically pleasing in all of college hockey.
On Monday night, the original Beanpot will be in safe-keeping while the Boston University Terriers and Boston College Eagles renew their fierce rivalry. The winner will be presented a trophy that looks exactly like the historic cup BU coach Jack Parker and BC coach Jerry York fought over when they skated for their alma maters more than 40 years ago. It is not, in fact, the same piece of silverware but the replica will forever be a part of the Beanpot tournament’s storied history.
The author of this article can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org