The following article was submitted by David Snow, and is the second work published in our “YOU write for the blog” series. David is a longtime BU hockey supporter, and a season ticket holder in section 115, row Q, seats 20-22. Have a story to share, or an opinion to defend? Submit your own article to [email protected]!
On February 6, 1978, I was a 14-year old high school freshman headed to something I’m sure I had looked forward to all the preceding weekend. My older brothers, Mark, 24 and Jack, then a 20-year old BU student, were taking me, I would imagine begrudgingly, to the Beanpot. It is a Boston tradition, an annual college hockey tournament played at the Boston Garden between Boston University, Boston College, Harvard and Northeastern University. The tournament is played like clockwork, on the first two Mondays in February. This story is less about the event, though it has been written about plenty by many, and more about the events of the date itself.
Mark packed us into his Ford Mustang soft-top convertible and off we went to the “Gahden”. My father worked at Boston University in their athletic facility and both brothers attended BU tuition free as an employee benefit. I like to think that him working there was all part of a plan to get his four kids through college. Makes for a better story. Nah! If that guy had worked at the dump I’m sure today we all would have been garbagemen or pawn brokers. But the benefit was a great one and his employment at BU would shape a portion of my life I still cling to.
The forecast that day was for about six inches of snow. That’s enough to get attention but not enough to shut anything down in Boston. There was probably that much on the ground from previous storms and we likely needed a coat of white to cover up the soot-stained piles on the city streets. I’m sure I was psyched to be going all day at school while imagining the bright lights of the Garden and the noise of a sold out arena. I regularly went to BU hockey games courtesy of the back door at Walter Brown Arena. They were a national college hockey power whose fate generally had me in their grip. I sat many a night with a transistor radio in hand listening to games out West where the Terriers were bound to get screwed by some blind Western referee. I was pretty sure that God was responsible for every bad loss they had ever suffered. I lived and died by the results.
Watching them in the Beanpot at the Garden was a welcome distraction and invitation to ignore Algebra for that day (and every other class according to my grades). When that bell rang to end the school day, I ran through Harvard Yard and caught the 73 bus home but in my mind I’m sure I was flying. No time to taunt Harvard students with my friends or steal an apple at Nini’s Corner in Harvard Square. I had to get home so there was no excuse to be left behind. I’m sure my brothers were thrilled with that 85 pound anchor for the night.
Despite high winds and heavy snow we were going “in town” no matter what. We zipped into the city (a big 3 mile trip in total), parked illegally under the elevated highway in Charlestown and walked through what appeared to be way more than the predicted half foot of snow to meet my brother’s college friends. I was so short at the time, they could have put me in their coats. My brothers and their friends seemed so big to me, all over 6 feet tall, and they took me under their wing. That meant having their friend working the door at Sully’s Tap look the other way when a 5 foot 2 inch skinny schoolboy snuck by. The bar was so packed nobody could even see me once I was in there. I was handed a beer by one of their friends and the night got a little shaky for Game 1 between Northeastern and Harvard. We eventually made it into our nosebleed balcony seats at one end of the Garden. Choosing the last row had to be strategic so that the guys could literally turn around and order from the beer stand in back of our row. I was buzzed by the combination of beer, the acceptance of my brother’s peers who were happy I hadn’t thrown up yet, and the anticipation of the civil war between BU and BC in the night’s second semi-final.
The rivalry between the two schools in college hockey is to this day fierce and well fought. In short, they have been playing since what seems like forever and there is not much to separate the two in terms of on-ice success. I hate and respect the Eagles and back then they were evil personified. Peering down to center ice through the smoke filtering up to the lights of the Garden, the spoked B of the Bruins made this war all the sweeter. Both teams were really good that year and the joint was electric. The bands, the student sections – everything pointed to another epic game.
The game became secondary before the first whistle had blown. When you sat in the balcony at the old Garden, you could open the fire doors up top to see what was happening out there. This night, it was just a blanket of constantly falling snow and you could hear the winds howling all around North Station. After each period you could hear people talking about what had become “the blizzard”. We were no longer talking inches. We were predicting accumulation in feet. All I knew was there would be no school in Cambridge tomorrow (or as it turned out – for the next 3 weeks). I found out what a state of emergency was starting the very next day – it was no joke (even if then Governor Dukakis’ sweaters were). This storm had become serious.
Throughout the second game, the lights began to flicker in the old barn and BU was pummeling BC. There was an announcement after the second period that this was the worst storm ever and people should consider leaving (my brothers were feeling no pain and leaving to drive seemed less safe than staying). At some point in the 3rd period they announced that all who remained had to go or plan on staying over at the Garden. After years of seeing mice, rats and every other kind of vermin roaming those dusty rafters and stands, the choice was clear. Let’s button up and face whatever Mother Nature is brewing outside. I think about 600 fans stayed and got stuck at the Garden for several days (eating hot dogs, pretzels and probably game programs before they were freed).
We trudged through the drifts of snow that were already above my waist in some places, dug out my brother’s car and pushed it onto the snow packed roads. The windswept snow was pounding us and fortunately there were hardly any cars on the roads by then. That was probably a good indicator that we should not have been out there either. For some reason we were dropping off Jack’s friends downtown so we had a full sled. Mark went with the moment and put the top of the Mustang down like any good New Englander would in that situation. From the open car, we made snowballs and hummed them at anyone foolish enough to be walking along the Charles River that night. We kept having to get out and push the Mustang out of drifts. My brothers were more than half in the wrapper based on a night of pounding drafts in the balcony. They were in good spirits so it was necessity and good humor that found me steering the Mustang all over Memorial Drive while they pushed. It didn’t seem as unsafe as it reads because everything seemed cushioned by all the snow. That may have been the beers talking to me.
We made it to the Mount Auburn Hospital area and by then the roads were impassable. The remaining mile walk in that storm is something I will never forget. It was well after midnight, cold, windy and visibility was near nonexistent. We laughed and made the most of the ghost town like city we were trampling through. By the time we made it down the street to our home there had to be three feet of snow on the ground and drifts that looked at least double that at the foot of the small hill that led to our front door. We made it in and my mother was both relieved and upset at once. I can still feel the cold, wet clothes falling off of me. I was never so appreciative of the roof and government-provided heat of our project home. In the morning we could literally jump out our second floor window into the drifts. And we did!
The next three weeks off were a bonanza for our entrepreneurial souls as we raced out each morning to go shovel for the rich people of Brattle Street and the Larches. It was hard work but four foot drifts made people pay and we were there to take it. When we did get to play in it we became experts in snow tunnels and igloos. I seem to recall remnants of that storm lasting almost to June in some parking lots.
Lots of people got stuck during the Blizzard of ’78 and there were serious implications for many. We may have got stuck, but the adventure was worth all of it. The second night of the Beanpot was eventually played vs. Harvard and BU won it (again!). They went on to win the national title that year and good triumphed over evil (BU 6 BC 3) in the national final to win it all (for the record and the rub they beat BC all four times they played that year).
My favorite story from that night comes from the BU hockey team’s trip home. The players knew there would be no school the next day and wanted to stop at their favorite bar – The Dugout. Coach Parker told the driver to stop at Marsh Chapel (directly across the street from the Dugout so the boys could say a prayer – wink wink). The BU team got out at the chapel, turned and crossed the street and, in the words of Terrier star and 1980 gold medal winning Olympian Dave Silk, “we all went into the Dugout and by the time we came out, the snow was gone and so were the 70’s.”
But the memories live on!