Held annually on the first two Mondays in February, the Beanpot Hockey Tournament is the oldest and most prestigious college hockey tournament in the country. Pitting the four Division One hockey teams in Boston (Northeastern, Harvard, Boston College and Boston University) against each other, the tournament consists of back to back doubleheaders on the aforementioned Mondays. The tournament dates back to 1952, having been contested at three sites: the Boston Arena, the Boston Garden, and now the TD Garden.
Initially started as a way to fill a couple of empty dates at the old Boston Arena, the Beanpot has grown exponentially since it was first contested. The Beanpot is Boston hockey’s unofficial championship. It almost doesn’t matter what happens afterwards in conference play or even the subsequent national tournament, in Boston, if your team wins the Beanpot, you are Boston's college hockey champions.
The TD Garden, formerly known as the Fleet Center and the TD BankNorth Garden, is the home of both the NBA's Boston Celtics and the NHL's Boston Bruins. Built just nine inches from the original Boston Garden, it is named after its sponsor, TD Bank. In addition to the annual Beanpot Tournament, the Bruins and the Celtics, the TD Garden has hosted the NHL All-Star Game, Frozen Four, NCAA Basketball Tournament Regionals and Hockey East Championships.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Not all of the concession stands at the TD Garden are always open for the Beanpot, but visiting fans will still get the complete concession experience.
The menu at TD Garden is extensive, and evolving year to year. New stands, such as the Frito Lay Test Kitchen (walking tacos, Cheetos flavored popcorn, mac and cheese topped with crushed Cheetos or Lays potato chips) and Legal Sea Foods (clam chowder, fish and chips, lobster rolls) are mixed with old favorites. Marketplace (grab and go drinks, snacks, sandwiches and salads), Taqueria (tacos, nachos and carnitas), North End Butcher (sausages and hot dogs), Back Bay BBQ (BBQ chicken, brisket and pulled pork), Causeway Carver (roast beef, pastrami and Thanksgiving sandwiches), Hub Hot Dogs (hot dogs and popcorn), Lucky's Chicken (chicken fingers and sandwiches), Sal's Pizzeria, Big Bad Burgers (single, double, triple and quadruple burgers) and Garden Grill (Boston-themed sandwiches) line the inner concourses of both levels four and seven. My recommendation would be to get one of the giant 18-inch super slices from Sal's Pizza. If you are visiting from out of town and want a taste of Boston while watching the action, get a bowl of chowder and a lobster roll.
Vegetarian, vegan, kosher and gluten free items are available throughout TD Garden. A more in-depth description of the menu, including a map of all concessions, can be found here.
TD Garden boasts an impressive selection of adult beverages, all of which are available, even at this college event. Thirsty fans should head to the Craft Beer Garden on level seven for multiple craft beers from throughout New England and beyond. Local favorites served here include Downeast Original Cider, Wachusett Blueberry Ale and Cisco Sankaty Light from Massachusetts, Allagash White from Maine, Magic Hat #9 from Vermont and Smuttynose Old Brown Dog from New Hampshire. Fans on level four should head to the Sam Adams Brewhouse for a selection of Sam Adams flavors, Barefoot Wines and premium spirits, or the Hub Bar for the aforementioned craft beers. If craft brews are not your thing, TD Garden offers several national brews at all concession stands.
The one drawback to the concession experience here at the Beanpot is that you will pay NHL prices for your food.
Among the best facets of any college hockey game are the noise and excitement generated by a school's pep band and student section. Now, multiply a typical college hockey crowd by four and you have the Beanpot atmosphere.
All four schools represent in full force for the Beanpot, with rivalries switching like some reality show based on the day's matchups. In addition to packed student sections in the balcony, alums and local fans come out to support their teams in great numbers.
In the Beanpot, you have four schools where hockey is the premier sport, vying for bragging rights in a city where pucks are king. Student sections compete to one-up each other in a (mostly) friendly back and forth. There is no need for piped in music here, the pep bands make sure the Garden is filled with noise during all play stoppages. When perennial national powers and rivals Boston College and Boston University match up, the atmosphere is even more electric. Due to the rotating schedule, this matchup is guaranteed to happen in the first round every third year.
Despite the fact that three of these schools are members of the Hockey East Conference, and Beanpot games do not count in league standings, these games are among the most highly competitive college hockey games you will see anywhere. The players on the ice take winning Boston bragging rights most seriously, as do the fans.
Despite its appearance, there is much to do in the area right around the TD Garden. In what was once a rundown area underneath the Green Line tracks is now a smorgasbord of bars, restaurants, hotels and clubs.
Fans looking for just a quick bite to eat can choose from several locations, such as Halftime King of Pizza, D'Angelo's Sandwiches, Qdoba Mexican Grill, or Dunkin' Donuts.
For a proper Garden experience, local hockey fans choose from one of the many outstanding eateries in the neighborhood. The Four's was named the best sports bar in the United States by Sports Illustrated in 2005, and has menu items named after many Boston sports icons. Boston Beer Works is a popular destination due its selection of craft brews. Out of towners should sample the Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale. Hockey fans flock from all over greater Boston to The Harp, The Greatest Bar, Sports Grille Boston, Hurricane O'Reilly's, and many other fine dining establishments in the immediate area of the Garden.
Walk a few blocks past this cluster of buildings, and you will arrive at Faneuil Hall, one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. Containing a multitude of restaurants, clubs, and shops, it ranks as one of Boston's top tourist destinations.
Fans looking for even more dining options should take a left onto Causeway Street after leaving the Garden and cross over I-93 into the North End, Boston's version of Little Italy. Local hockey fans flock to Bruins great Ray Bourque's restaurant, Tresca. Be sure to grab a couple of cannolis from Mike's Pastry while checking out the North End. Also located in the North End are some buildings of historical significance, such as the Old North Church and Copp's Hill Burial Ground.
Fans looking to explore Boston's many historical sites can follow the Freedom Trail, which passes only a few blocks from the Garden. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long brick-lined route that connects 16 of Boston's most significant historic sites. This walking tour winds throughout the city and is one of the best ways to explore Boston.
There is an old adage in American hockey circles that states that to find the most knowledgeable, passionate fans in the United States, head to the three "M's" (Massachusetts, Minnesota and Michigan). Massachusetts, and by extension New England, is one of the most hockey-crazed areas you will find anywhere, with a dedicated fan base that can rival anything found in Canada.
The Beanpot features four schools at which hockey is the premier sport. This passion for hockey is evident in the crowds that flock to the Garden, as student sections pack to the brim and become as much a part of the action as the players on the ice.
Crowds at the Beanpot annually total over 14,000 for both days, with capacity crowds of 17,565 not an unusual occurrence. While it's usually possible to get tickets on the day of the event, the Beanpot features crowds that many NHL teams would kill for year in and year out. For the best Beanpot experience, get tickets to the second Monday, when the championship is decided.
Anyone who has spent any time in the city of Boston can testify that it is not an easy city in which to get around. Traffic jams are a constant presence and construction an ever-present nuisance. No matter what direction you may be traveling from, the most direct route to the Garden is to take exit 26 off of I-93. Once off the highway, follow the signs to North Station. Beware, the city streets around the Garden are narrow and crowded, and several turns must be navigated before arriving at your destination. It is best to bring along someone who is familiar with the crooked streets of the city. Better yet, don't drive if you can at all avoid it.
A much simpler and more efficient method for getting to the Garden is to take public transportation, known in Boston as the "T." The TD Garden is located directly on top of the North Station MBTA commuter rail station, bringing in fans from all parts of suburban Boston. For fans taking the subway, both the green and orange lines stop at North Station, right across the street from TD Garden, making it easily accessible from any part of the city and beyond. Subway fares are $2.75, making taking the T to a Bruins game a much more affordable option than driving.
Although there are many options for parking in the area around the Garden it can be quite expensive to leave your car anywhere in the vicinity. There is a 5-level garage located directly underneath the Garden, but it will cost you $45 to park there for a game. There are several surface lots in the immediate area, as well as numerous parking garages, ranging in price from $35-$45 for the event. There is limited on-street parking available within a few blocks of the Garden, but don't hold your breath waiting for one of those spots.
The ongoing construction of "The Boston Garden" a mixed use development adjacent to TD Garden has changed foot traffic patterns around the Garden. All fans now enter the facility on the Canal Street side of the building. Construction is scheduled to continue around the area until 2019.
Fans will enter the TD Garden at street level into the North Station. Located here is a small food court, TD Garden ticket booths, and the terminus for the MBTA commuter rail and Amtrak trains. A pair of escalators take fans to the entrance to the arena and the newly remodeled Pro Shop powered by Reebok. From here, more escalators take fans up to the loge (level four), suite (levels five and six), and balcony (level seven) levels.
Concourses at the TD Garden, having been completely renovated before the 2015-2016 season, are clean and modern. Murals depicting famous moments that have occurred here and at the old Boston Garden line the outer wall of the concourse. The concourses, particularly on level seven, can get crowded during intermissions, but are generally easy to navigate.
The seating bowl at TD Garden consists of black and yellow folding stadium seats with good views of the action from all areas. Some sections are a bit cramped, but are not overly uncomfortable. Restrooms are plentiful, but lines do form during intermissions.
The Beanpot is a single admission event, with one ticket gaining access to both games. Lower level seats cost $49.50, while upper level tickets are $42.50. It's a great bargain to see some of the top ranked teams in the country play some of their most meaningful games of the season. Look for bargains on the second Monday, as fans whose schools are eliminated look to get rid of their unwanted tickets.
An unfortunate side effect of holding a tournament at an NHL facility is that you will be paying major league prices for parking and concessions. Parking can run as high as $45 in the lots and garages around TD Garden, and concessions are not discounted for the Beanpot. You will be paying the same prices Boston Bruins fans pay for food, which rank among the highest in the NHL.
Taking the "T" to the Garden not only saves fans the aggravation of fighting the always-present Boston traffic, but is much more economical. A one-way ticket on the T costs $2.75, eliminating the hassle of rush hour traffic and overpriced parking. The Commuter Rail drops fans off directly beneath the arena, and both the green and orange lines stop right across the street from the TD Garden.
Check out Parking Panda for some of the best parking options for the game. Use the promo code STADIUMJOURNEY10 for 10% off your first transaction.
The Beanpot has its own Hall of Fame, commemorating those players who have distinguished themselves over their Beanpot careers. Countless NHL players have played in the Beanpot, including Hockey Hall of Famers Joe Mullen and Cooney Weiland.
Proudly displayed among the many championship banners and retired number banners that hang from the rafters of the TD Garden is a banner dedicated to the Beanpot. The previous year's winner is commemorated here and has bragging rights over the college hockey scene in Boston for the following season.
The Beanpot has proven to be such an iconic event that the four schools also compete in a women's Beanpot Tournament each winter, and a baseball Beanpot in the spring. NHL rosters are littered with players from the four competing schools. If you ask any of them what the highlight of their careers is, the Beanpot is sure to be near the top of any list.
The Sports Museum is perhaps the greatest hidden sporting gem in Boston, it's a must see for any sports fan visiting Boston. Located on levels 5 and 6 of the Garden, The Sports Museum features items celebrating the city of Boston's long and storied sports history, from the pros to high school teams. Located within walking distance of the Garden are statues honoring Boston sports icons Bobby Orr, Red Auerbach and Bill Russell.
A final point is awarded for the Beanpot Trophy itself. Short of witnessing the awarding of the Stanley Cup itself, there may be no better trophy presentation in hockey. Immediately upon conclusion of the final, the Beanpot banner is lowered from the rafters and the new champion's name is attached, and when the trophy is awarded the winning team parades it around the Garden with the same reverence gven to the Stanley Cup.
Boston's unofficial city championship is the longest running and premier college hockey tournament in the nation. Having these four schools, all located within five miles of each other, competing annually would alone make for a compelling tournament. Add in the fact that these teams are regulars in the national rankings, and you have a college hockey fan's dream tournament. The Beanpot is a bucket list item for any serious hockey fan, whether or not you even follow college hockey.
Follow Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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