According to a report from the BBC, the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, is working with Irish officials to uproot his city's beloved Beanpot Tournament and stage it at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast in 2016.
The Beanpot, which features Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern, has been played annually in Boston since 1952 and is the biggest regular-season tournament on the college hockey schedule. The local community will surely miss it, even if it is gone for only one year, but Walsh is looking big picture in throwing his political weight behind the venture.
"In the 62 years since its inception [the Beanpot] has become the official battle for Boston's hockey bragging rights and is widely known as the 'social event of the winter season'," said Walsh. "In light of the recent Sister City twinning between Belfast and Boston, which is underpinned by a longstanding connection between the two cities through ice hockey, I think it would be wonderful to bring the Beanpot to Belfast and am lending my support to the campaign."
Representatives from the Odyssey group will fly to Boston next month to meet with representatives from the four schools and the NCAA.
An Irish game would be a first for college hockey, but not for NCAA sports. The Emerald Isle Classic featured the football squads of Boston College and Army playing at Landsdowne Road in 1988 and 1989. Three more NCAA games, two involving Notre Dame, have been held since.
Based on the dubious success of those events, the Beanpot might wind up doing more for tourism than for helping hockey plant deeper roots in Ireland. Still, the boldness of the plan should draw attention to the tournament outside the normal sphere of interest and add some prestige to the event when it returns Stateside. And if it acts as a recruiting tool to convince some hotshot to pass on juniors for the NCAA or we see some kid named Paddy O'Malley sign on with the Terriers or Eagles ten years down the road, so much the better.