Trophy Wars: MacNaughton vs Beanpot As Minnesota State Wins The WCHA

Trophy Wars: MacNaughton vs Beanpot As Minnesota State Wins The WCHA

Two great trophies, one great argument: We look at two famous trophies, the MacNaughton Cup vs the Beanpot, to see which is the better hardware.

Mar 3, 2021 by Tim Rappleye
Trophy Wars: MacNaughton vs Beanpot As Minnesota State Wins The WCHA

College hockey is intensely provincial, particularly when it comes to the age-old geographic rivalry East vs West. It’s a battle that has been waged on center stage in both the 1960 and 1980 USA gold medal Olympic teams. And now it has spread to the trophy case. 

A recent story’s innocuous reference to the Beanpot Trophy in reference to the MacNaughton Cup immediately raised the hackles of hard-core fans on both sides of the country. It raised an all-important question: which is college hockey’s granddaddy of trophies? Like a controversial goal or penalty, this debate required further review.

To those who have never taken a stride within Massachusetts, the Beanpot Trophy is handed out to the winner of the February tournament by the same name. In contrast, the MacNaughton Cup is awarded for regular-season excellence, handed out to the winner of whatever conference includes Michigan Tech. Last week WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson was in Mankato, handing out the MacNaughton chalice to Minnesota State. When it comes to precious metal, the edge goes to the West.

“Three feet high, weighs close to 40 pounds, and handcrafted in pure silver,” said the man known as Billy Rob. “It is true hockey immortality, the closest trophy to the Stanley Cup.”

Former Hockey East and ECAC commissioner Joe Bertagna begs to differ, insisting that the Beanpot is in a class by itself. 

“Other trophies don’t add up to a hill of beans,” said the Harvard grad who played in three Beanpot tourneys for the Crimson. “What makes the Beanpot unique is the concept of the tournament itself, four schools, all connected by public transportation, coming together on two Monday nights in February, just when winter fever starts to take hold of hockey sports fans.”

The trophy itself is unique, but outside of the Bay State, not awe-inspiring. It’s literally a bean pot, pudgy and composed of aluminum. Furthermore, it is 50 years younger than the gleaming MacNaughton Cup. To some, though, age isn't necessarily a barometer of greatness.

What do the players think? Former Northern Michigan Wildcat Dallas Drake hoisted the MacNaughton back in 1991, the year he led his Cats to the NCAA title. 

“From a duration standpoint, it’s a huge difference,” said Drake. “Your entire league schedule, 18-20 games. The Beanpot, a hot goalie could change the outcome. Gotta say the edge goes to MacNaughton Cup. It’s the oldest one, that in itself goes to the top of the leaderboard. It’s got a lot of history behind it, enough said.”

The Beanpot Trophy . . . not quite as physically impressive as the MacNaughton Cup.

Mike Sylvia is a Boston product that was part of BU’s super six, pictured far right in the photo above, surrounded by his joyous classmates who in 1998 were the first class to sweep four Beanpots. To him, the Beanpot buzz is second to none. 

“You get to play in front of a sold-out crowd at the Boston Garden, a phenomenal experience,” said Sylvia, who now lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. “[The MacNaughton] doesn’t garner much media out here. In Boston, it’s kind of the lead story in different media outlets, two weeks of the season where it’s focused on the Beanpot, the four Boston teams playing against each other to see who takes home the crown.”

The WCHA and its MacNaughton Cup have tentacles throughout Canada as well as the United States. British Columbia native Drake was much more familiar with the MacNaughton than the Beanpot when he was being recruited. 

“From Ontario all the way to British Columbia, all those Canadian kids, the WCHA seems to be the top of the list.” 

Robertson knows both sides of this debate. 

“My oldest brother Mike played in two Beanpots, representing Boston College — 1967 and 1968. I have had the distinct honor of giving out this beautiful trophy the past seven years. In my mind the most prestigious trophy in college hockey is the famous MacNaughton Cup.”

It’s a debate that may never be settled, though both trophies bring prestige and attention college hockey’s passionate fan base. Perhaps the ultimate measuring stick is how hard each trophy is to win. Former BU star Sylvia has enormous respect for Minnesota State’s class of 2021, seven skaters who captured the MacNaughton Cup in each of their four years. 

“It’s certainly a phenomenal accomplishment for them,” said Sylvia. “It might even be more difficult than winning the Beanpot four years in a row.” 

A concession of that magnitude certainly amounts to a “Hill of beans.”

Tim Rappleye is the author of two books: Jack Parker's Wiseguys and Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review. You can find him on Twitter.