Bragging rights in office buildings and classrooms all around Boston will be on the line today when the men of Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern take to the ice for the 2011 edition of the Beanpot. The four schools and their fans prove the old adage that familiarity breeds contempt. With no campus more than four miles from another, these schools are like kissing cousins.

Terriers fans have dubbed the Beanpot the “BU Invitational,” since their team has captured twenty-nine pots of beans since the tournament’s inception—more than the other three schools combined. Boston College has captured fourteen Beanpot trophies, Harvard has won ten, and Northeastern, the perennial underdog, has only four.

As hard as it is to believe today, the Beanpot certainly wasn’t an overnight sensation. The tournament was originally born as a way to fill open dates at the Boston Arena (Matthews Arena today). The first New England Invitational Hockey Tournament, as it was known then, was won by Harvard and played on the two nights after Christmas in 1952. For the next edition of the Beanpot, the event moved to Boston Garden, but only 711 fans turned out for the first game.

It wasn’t until the sixth year of the tournament that the current schedule of the first two Mondays in February was adopted. The first sellout wouldn’t occur until 1961, but they quickly became a common occurrence. In fact, the Beanpot was such a draw that even during the great blizzard of 1978, more than eleven thousand fans showed up at the Boston Garden. Many stayed to the end, by which point they were trapped inside and condemned to spend the night eating lukewarm hot dogs on stale buns.

This year’s schedule calls for Northeastern to take on Harvard at 5pm and Boston College to battle BU at 8pm in the opening round tonight. The winners will skate off against each other on Monday, February 14th. Tickets can be found on the secondary market, and you may want to keep checking with the participating schools and TD Garden box office to see if any tickets have been released. It will be easier to get tickets to the finals as fans of the two schools in the consolation game will likely be amenable to unloading tickets.

The women also skate in their own Beanpot. The women’s Beanpot, one of the longest-running women’s collegiate tournaments in all of sports, is rotated among the campus rinks of the four teams and will be held this year at BC. The women skate the first Tuesdays in February. The 2011 schedule calls for Harvard to play Northeastern and BC to take on BU on February 8 with the winners battling on February 15. Tickets are $8, click here to purchase.

*adapted from original post, February 2010