Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Stirring The Pot

Good front page article in today's WSJ on the amazing rivalry between Boston University and Boston College in hockey, including the personal one between coaches Jack Parker and Jerry York:

On New Year's Eve in 1962, Jack Parker and Jerry York lined up against each other in a high-school ice-hockey game--and started a rivalry that has become one of the most extraordinary in college sports.

After high school, Mr. Parker played at Boston University and Mr. York at Boston College. Mr. Parker later became the coach at BU, and Mr. York at BC.

Now, after nearly half a century of going toe-to-toe, each man's success is unexcelled--and they are still fierce competitors. Mr. York has accumulated more wins--827--than any other active college coach. Mr. Parker is only seven wins behind him.

In 2008, BC won the NCAA championship, giving Mr. York three national titles, one more than Mr. Parker. The BU coach, not to be outdone, cracked the whip and won the 2009 crown this past spring, with the help of a hockey miracle. The championship left Mr. Parker with 30 career wins in NCAA tournament games, breaking the record of 29, which had been held by you-know-who.

The teams meet next on Saturday, and the rivalry is now getting some attention beyond the small college-hockey fraternity. Earlier this month, a documentary on BU-BC hockey aired on NESN, a New England cable-television channel. The title, "The Battle of Commonwealth Avenue," is a reference to the street the schools share, albeit four miles apart. More attention will come in January when the schools face off in an outdoor game at Fenway Park, the home of baseball's Boston Red Sox.

Even without the coaches' personal history, BU-BC hockey stands practically alone among collegiate feuds.

"People talk about Michigan and Ohio State in football, but imagine if they were located right next to each other, and their players all knew each other growing up, and they played not once but three or four times a year," says Bernie Corbett, the longtime radio voice of BU hockey. "Every game is like a Boston civil war."

While I've been somewhat dismissive in the past of non-WCHA college hockey, there's no denying that Hockey East has found its mojo once again and that the BU-BC rivalry is one of the best in all of college sport. I'm hoping that the January game at Fenway will be televised nationally so college hockey fans across the country can get a taste of what the Beantown battles are all about.

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